Trustee candidates agree: More study needed before Green Tree is closed
Environmental concerns also at forefront of race
River Hills — Village Board candidate Victor Harding makes no bones about it. The fight to close Green Tree Road should have never gone to the courts. The court case is a waste of time and money for the taxpayers of River Hills, he said.
"If I were there, I would force the parties (on all sides) to get a representative, put them in a room, kick the lawyers out, and have them reach a solution that's palatable to all sides of the issue," said Harding, a lawyer.
In November, the board decided to close the eastbound lane of Green Tree Road between River and Jean Nicolet roads on a six-month trial basis after residents living on the street complained about traffic and speeding. The Nicolet School District and city of Glendale then sued the village to keep the street open. The case is pending in federal court.
Four residents are running for two trustee seats in the April 6 election.
Despite the complexity of the issue now, Harding remains confident that River Hills residents are capable of solving the problem themselves.
"It's an issue that can be solved by the residents if they sit down and put their heads together," he said.
Incumbents Steve Anderson and R. David Fritz voted to close the street.
Fritz said the village should wait until traffic patterns go back to normal before acting. Traffic volume won't be known until construction on the Good Hope Road bridge and repaving on Green Tree are completed.
Fritz said that, once traffic returns to normal, the solution will still require additional thought.
"We're still gathering information, and I want to hear what this information means to try to determine what the best solution is for the entire village, including the residents of Green Tree."
Anderson agreed the situation needs more review before taking action, although he did note that a traffic study said that Green Tree has the highest accident frequency of any street in the village.
He said increased police presence and speed bumps, as recommended by the study, should be considered, especially as a way to slow traffic.
Anderson said the residents living on Green Tree Road aren't looking for extreme measures, but are justifiably concerned with their surroundings.
"Safety is directly related to speed," Anderson said. "(According to the recent traffic study) over 90 percent of the traffic is going above the speed limit."
He also said the demands of residents living along Green Tree are reasonable.
"Their goal is to have a safe street," he said.
Challenger Katharine Stanford said the two sides need to work things out.
"It's clear to me from having gone up and down the road that something needs to be done," Stanford said.
"I think we need to listen to all the solutions and find a compromise that's agreeable," she said.
The candidates also talked about how the village can help residents be better stewards of the environment. Most agreed that the village or the Committee on the Environment needs to provide more education on eradicating invasive species like buckthorn and garlic mustard.
Anderson said the village has done a good job of curbing the deer population, but needs to focus on reducing the number of coyotes and turkeys.
He says that, rather than imposing ordinances on residents to make them remove invasive species, the village should continue to distribute information.
"I feel that the people in River Hills are very willing to do the right thing if they know what it is," Anderson said. "The village should not dictate how residents should maintain their yards."
Stanford said the village should more strictly enforce ordinances that govern how residents use and resources like the Milwaukee river.
"I think that we've made great strides in the (environment) and that there are some ordinances on the books which would be very helpful to the village," Stanford said.
Harding said a balance between legislative enforcement and education will preserve River Hills. He'd like to see more enforcement to keep the river clean.
"I believe the rule (regarding herbicides and pesticides) is being violated," Harding said. "People are using them within five feet of the river, and that should be stopped."
Harding said he is worried about invasive plant species in River Hills causing erosion, which loosens the soil base and causes silt build-up.
Fritz says that, as a member of the Committee on the Environment, he has noticed a lack of communication with the villagers and is spearheading an initiative to increase the presence of the committee.
"I would say that right now we don't have a very good medium for disseminating information to the villagers," Fritz said. "Our community Web site needs to be more robust so it can provide a single source of timely information to our residents."
Anderson views the village as a service business whose customers and owners are the residents of River Hills.
"It's very important that we're fiscally responsible," he said.
Stanford said her biggest strength, honed as a community volunteer and financial executive, is her ability to forge alliances.
In her eyes, residents want a trustee who is active and accessible.
"People seem to have really responded to the idea that they have someone they can connect with and talk to who will listen to and appreciate their views and concerns," Stanford said.
Harding was born and raised in the same house he occupies now in River Hills. He says the board prohibits certain sections of the village from being represented.
"There's a voting block on the board … that's been there a long time," Harding said, "and I would like to broaden the representation to all the villagers."
Fritz says that as a businessman, he's been in conflicts and that understanding each side is the key to mediation.
"My greatest strength is to try to be a bridge between different opinions, and I try to build consensus," Fritz said.
Trustees serve three-year terms and are not compensated.
Steve Anderson (i)
Address: 925 W. Dean Road
Contacts: (414) 351-3512; e-mail: email@example.com
Public Offices: River Hills Trustee (past 8 Years)
R. David Fritz Jr. (i)
Address: 3395 W. County Line Road
Contacts: (414) 467-5017 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Offices: Seeking re-election as trustee
Address: 7730 N. River Road
Contacts: (414) 276-4970; e-mail: email@example.com
Public Offices: second run at village trustee
Address: 825 W. Dean Road
Contacts: (414) 352-8412; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Offices: first run at public office
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