Council takes a slow cruise through city’s street concerns

Vandals stripped bark from this silver maple tree in Honeysuckle Park recently and carved words into the bare trunk. The Cambridge council voted to remove the tree and plant another elsewhere in the park.  

Heeding the emails from a number of residents, the Cambridge city council talked over possible changes to two items at its Sept. 3 meeting involving driving on city residential streets.

The first item up for discussion was the possibility of changing the city ordinance to allow ATVs, UTVs and/or golf carts to be driven on city streets. Currently, city ordinance does not allow these on city streets with the exception for “agricultural purposes,” which Cambridge police chief Todd Schuster describes as being mostly snow plowing.

Council member Kersten Barfknecht-Conley mentioned some of the feedback she received was in favor of modifying the ordinance so it matched the city of Isanti’s, which does allow for them.

Schuster pointed out that based on state law, if the ordinance was changed, it would then allow people who don’t possess a valid driver’s license to drive those types of vehicles on city streets. He said based on that, plus other safety concerns, he would be against an ordinance change.

Council member Lisa Iverson said she thought this topic would be coming up again due to the increased popularity of the use of golf carts.

Ultimately, the council decided they preferred to not change the ordinance at this time.

The second driving-related agenda item involved changing the speed limits of residential streets down to 25 miles per hour.

This was brought up based on the fact that the state legislature recently allowed for cities to change the limit on “city streets in an area zoned exclusively for housing and are not collector or arterial streets.”

City engineer Todd Blank showed the council a map of which streets they would be able to change. Streets that would not qualify for the speed reduction include streets in the downtown district, those surrounding commercial areas, ones leading to the high school and around the hospital.

Additionally, he said that state laws require that any speed limits different from the standard 30 miles per hour would need to have a sign posted at the beginning and end of the street.

“I quickly counted up the segments and think there would be roughly 100 signs that would have to be installed,” Blank said. “Those signs cost us about $150 apiece, so it would roughly be a $15,000 cost to post those.”

The council asked if they could pick and choose which streets would be changed, and while that is possible, Schuster, Blank and city administrator Lynda Woulfe advised against it.

“If you take only some streets based on request,” Woulfe said, “of course, you’re going to be flooded with requests. And then you’re going to have a hard time defending why it is this street over that street. It would also make enforcement a lot easier.”

Schuster added that only changing certain streets would lead to confusion as drivers moved from street to street. 

“Uniformity is always easiest from an enforcement standpoint,” he said.

Ultimately, the council decided to not take any action at this time, but they were willing to take the issue up again if there was a large demand coming from residents.

Damaged tree to be removed

Recently, the city posted photos on their Facebook page of a tree in Honeysuckle Park that was vandalized in hopes of receiving tips on who stripped the bark off the trunk and carved letters into the tree. 

While the post failed to yield any clues to the perpetrators, it did generate a lot of reaction and questions on what will be done to the tree.

During the council meeting, the council was informed that most likely the damage would cause the tree to eventually die, even with some of the recommended fixes. 

Because of that information, plus the fact that this particular type of tree – a silver maple – grows very quickly, the council decided the best thing to do would be to cut down the tree and then replace it.

Adding another reason for taking this action, it was noted that the damaged tree’s roots were starting to raise above the ground, which could potentially damage the sidewalk and fence right next to the tree. 

Therefore, the council also decided that the replacement tree would be planted in an area of the park better suited for its future growth. The new tree will be ordered as part of the 2020 street improvement plan in order to reduce costs.

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