‘A little less than neighborly’


The North Oaks maintenance center’s north gate, situated at city limits, opens onto Turtle Lake Road in Shoreview. Residents across the street say they’ve seen a marked increase in maintenance center traffic exiting the center, using a Shoreview road, and then reentering North Oaks over the last couple of years, including a large amount of construction vehicles during a recent project in early July. (Bridget Kranz)

Shoreview residents along Turtle Lake Road say they’ve seen trucks come out onto their street through the maintenance center’s north gate, drive out to Hodgson Road, turn left and reenter North Oaks through Wildflower Way. (courtesy of Google Maps)

Shoreview residents irked by North Oaks truck traffic

 

For two days in early July, residents along Turtle Lake Road in Shoreview noticed a sharp increase in the amount of construction traffic coming down their street. 

Trucks would leave from the north gate of a maintenance center, located on the south side of Turtle Lake Road in the City of North Oaks, drive out to Hodgson Road, turn left and then reenter North Oaks further south. 

Longtime Shoreview resident Mary Banholzer, who lives directly across from the gate, said her husband followed the trucks one day. He was surprised to see that they were taking this longer route into the heart of North Oaks, instead of exiting the facility through the south and taking Peterson Place straight down.

While its normal that it would be quicker for some vehicles to come and go through the north gate, Banholzer said she has seen a marked increase in traffic in the last couple of years. Although it isn’t constant, she noted that during construction projects there seems to be a steady stream of vehicles exiting and entering the site using Turtle Lake Road. 

The City of North Oaks is technically a private community, with no publicly owned land in the city. The roads, as well as the maintenance facility, are run by the North Oaks Home Owners’ Association. 

According to a December 2018 edition of the North Oaks News, the homeowners association put in place a plan back in 2017 to reroute staff, workers, vendors and deliveries to the maintenance center through the gate on the Shoreview end of the facility. 

The report said that the plan came about after residents on the North Oaks side of the complex raised concerns about traffic and the accompanying noise coming out of the facility onto Peterson Place.

The homeowners association in a statement declined to comment on why that decision was made, and if the policy of rerouting the majority of traffic through Shoreview is still in place. 

“Traffic related to NOHOA maintenance activities is routinely routed through two points of entry — Turtle Lake Road to the north and Peterson Place to the south,” the association statement said.

 

Heavier than usual

During this most recent period of increased maintenance center traffic, Banholzer reported seeing dump trucks drive past her home out of the north gate every 15 minutes, from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

She estimated that from January to March, trucks were bringing sand to and from the facility via the Shoreview gate for two to three days every week. In April and May, she again noticed multiple dump truck deliveries per day through the north gate for a period of roughly two weeks. 

Banholzer’s neighbor, Billie Novotny, works from home and agreed with her on the frequency with which maintenance vehicles come out of the north gate during projects.

In addition to noise and congestion, Banholzer and Novotny worried about the wear and tear that the heavier vehicles cause and the potential future maintenance costs for Turtle Lake Road. 

In its statement, the homeowners association said, “Traffic at both entrances increases for approximately two weeks in the summer months when North Oaks’ roads are undergoing service and repair, and during snow events in the winter months.”

Banholzer said that in the past she has been able to get in touch with Mikeya Griffin, executive director of the association. While Griffin has been responsive, Banholzer felt it often was too little, too late, sometimes after the project in question was already completed. 

Shoreview City Manager Terry Schwerm said he’s been in contact with Griffin, following up with the homeowners association after receiving complaints from Shoreview residents.

“[Griffin] has generally tried to be responsive and talk to the people that are doing the street maintenance. It’s not their employees, they contract for everything,” said Schwerm. “I’ve had residents come in and tell me that things seemed to be better — even after the most recent incident when they seemed to be doing this — that things got better after they contacted Mikeya.”

Still, Schwerm agreed that it did seem odd to have construction traffic take Shoreview roads out and then back into North Oaks. 

“It seems kind of counterproductive to have them going around the block to avoid going down [Peterson Place],” he said. “I think they’re trying to avoid going down the residential street so that residents to the south of the maintenance center aren’t as upset.”

 

Complaints from North Oaks residents

According to the homeowners association, the maintenance facility was first put into use in 1989. 

Banholzer said that she has lived in her home for 42 years, and reported that the homes along Peterson Place were built in the early 2000s, well after the maintenance center was already in place. 

“The rich people don’t want their traffic so they’re going to dump it out on the Shoreview roads where the houses aren’t as big,” she said. 

Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin, who also got involved in the issue after being contacted by residents, said she understands the frustrations of homeowners along Peterson Place during maintenance projects.

“[Construction traffic] effects everybody, and it’s stressful. I can understand,” she said. “But, I also think that it’s just not a fair thing for one group to say, ‘We don’t want any of this traffic coming through our neighborhood, send it somewhere else.’”

 

Tale of two cities

When it comes to the relationship between the two city governments, both Martin and North Oaks Mayor Gregg Nelson said they are on good terms. Shoreview residents have contacted Nelson about the issue as well, but he said his hands are tied. 

“NOHOA, who runs the roads, did not tell the city about their plan to route construction traffic through Shoreview,” said Nelson.

The city government’s lack of authority over the issue again stems from the fact that the roads in North Oaks aren’t public. They’re instead part of adjacent homeowners’ properties and therefore under the jurisdiction of the North Oaks Home Owners’ Association. 

“It’s totally legal,” said Nelson of the detoured traffic, “it’s just a little less than neighborly.”

When projects happen in one city that impact both, Banholzer said she feels an imbalance between the neighboring communities. She noted that when a senior apartment complex was going to be built on Hodgson Road adjacent to the border with North Oaks, North Oaks residents were heavily involved in the process.

“In the 40 years that we have lived in our house, we have never received a [construction notice] from the City of North Oaks or from NOHOA,” she said.

In its statement, the homeowners association said that being a good neighbor to the surrounding communities is a high priority for its members. It listed as evidence facilities that North Oaks shares with neighboring communities, such as ball fields, Chippewa Middle School and Incarnation Lutheran Church.

Martin said she hoped Shoreview residents and the association could work together to find a lasting solution to the problem, saying that adding traffic restrictions on Shoreview’s end would likely only create an enforcement issue. She added that the city was not considering any legal action.

“We’ve had a really good relationship for quite a while with North Oaks and this is just a problem that seems very localized, it’s not a problem with the whole city,” she said. “I really think that a lot of the issue comes down to fairness.”

Banholzer agreed, saying that while North Oaks city officials have been sympathetic to her frustrations, “The homeowners’ association acts as if we’re not neighbors.”

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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