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Only one way out for Tiffin subdivision

Single access doesn’t sit well

TIFFIN– It takes foresight to keep a growing city moving along safely.
Tiffin city officials heard from residents concerned about traffic patterns on a street leading to a newly-developing residential neighborhood; there is only one road in or out, and all traffic to the area will pass by Little Clippers, one of the community’s larger daycare centers.
The Tiffin City Council approved rezoning for the Tiffin Heights development in September 2013, changing much of its 42 acres from single family residential to multi-family residential. At the same time, the council approved the preliminary site plan for the development, located at the intersection of Deer View Avenue and Highway 6 in Tiffin. The preliminary plat shows a plan for 106 residential lots and a single commercial lot adjacent to the highway.
Council member Peggy Upton questioned why the preliminary plat was approved with only one access into the subdivision at this time, unlike the residential subdivision being developed right across the highway.
“We didn’t want Prairie Trail West to only have one exit from their subdivision, so I’m not sure why are allowing this one to be built with just one exit until who knows what future date,” Upton said. “How were we okay to with that? Is it to our standards to have only one outlet form a subdivision? How did we approve that preliminary plat?”
Mayor Steve Berner corrected what he said was an inaccuracy.
“First of all, to answer your question about why we approved it with one access; that’s incorrect. They have two: Jackson, and Buck,” said Berner. “They do not have direct access to Highway 6. But they do have two accesses being developed.
City Engineer Doug Frederick of Frederick Hart Engineering explained that the preliminary plat in fact shows two entrance streets, but only one will be constructed in the first phase of development that includes about 70 houses.
“The final plats come in and they are landlocked to one exit at this point,” said Frederick.
And even when the other two streets are eventually constructed, they will all empty onto Deer View Avenue.
That concerns some residents of Deer View Estates subdivision, which lies to the north of the proposed development. Two citizens addressed the city council at its May 14 meeting on the issue.
“We’ve noticed the amount traffic with just the small construction project at Hart Dentistry,” said Deer View resident Key Kain, referring to the dental office located on Deer View Avenue. “For many people the thought of additional construction in that area brings a higher volume of traffic and some of the traffic hazards, I think our neighborhood is concerned about what that growth will do.”
Neighbor Alan Kremzar noted that because many of the lots will contain duplexes or four-plex residential units, it adds up to 200 households.
“That’s going to be about four times the volume (of traffic) as our neighborhood,” said Kremzar. “I understand they have two access roads but they are both still off the main artery, Deer View Avenue. If something were to happen right at that intersection, that’s access to everywhere. That is an enormous volume of traffic coming down that one single road.”
Kremzar and Kain both asked why the developer was not required to have an access to the highway.
Tiffin City Administrator Michon Jackson said the DOT would not approve an additional access on Highway 6.
“But Prairie Trail West has one,” Upton said.
Michael Hart, also of Hart Frederick, pointed out that the only second access the DOT would likely approve is currently on private property owned by someone other than the developers.
“That happens to be Mr. Langenberg’s driveway. If he decides to sell and the area develops that will be the second access to Tiffin Heights,” said Hart.
Another problem is that Deer View Estates site plans also include expanding streets north toward Oakdale Boulevard in future phases, but those phases of development have yet to occur.
“Obviously it would help if Deer View’s developer would do phase two and provide another outlet to Blue Jay Court and eventually to Oakdale, but he is not moving. That’s a major part of the issue, but we can’t force him to do that,” Jackson said.
Likewise, Berner said the city could not force Tiffin Heights developers to apply for an access on Highway 6 because they do not own land contiguous to the highway where it would need to go.
Jackson said she has been working with engineers at Hart Frederick to determine other possible options for an additional access.
“But we don’t have answers at this point,” said Jackson. “We are trying to get as much flow of traffic up there as possible.”
It would help traffic flow better, Kremzar said, if parking rules were enforced on Deer View as well. Construction vehicles often park in prohibited zones, reducing visibility.
“They are parked everywhere, on the wrong side of the street. Some kid is going to get run over there,” said Kremzar. Though he has complained to city staff, nothing was enforced, he said. “No cars ticketed, no cars moved. It’s ridiculous.”
That brought the discussion to a second issue under council consideration; whether or not to approve the request for Little Clippers to expand the daycare center with a small addition.
There is currently not enough parking to do so, and no place to add a parking lot, Jackson noted.
“When they originally built it, they had ample parking. Then they added an extension and no parking considerations were made. The lot size they have is larger so they should have more parking to accommodate commercial rules,” Jackson said. “We will not approve their building permit until we figure out parking.”
Both she and Berner suggested the daycare workers could avail themselves of public parking spaces in the city park across the street, once the city builds them. Berner said the spots could be leased or purchased by the daycare to be used during business hours, and then used by the public during the evenings and weekends.
However, City Attorney Bob Michaels said that arrangement would not fulfill the city’s commercial parking requirements.
“I don’t think your ordinance allows people to (only) have parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Michael said. “The requirements are for all day.”
No action was taken on either item, other than to direct Jackson to continue researching parking options and street access to the new subdivision.