The Brooklyn Park City Council has delayed taking a vote on a controversial county road project designed to make room for a proposed light-rail line, work that could require bulldozing more than two dozen homes.
Mayor Jeff Lunde made the motion to table the decision to rebuild W. Broadway Avenue in front of a crowd of hundreds at Monday night’s City Council meeting. The motion was passed by a voice vote of the council with no discussion.
“I don’t have enough information to vote yes. I don’t have enough information to vote no,” Lunde said. “There is no urgency on this project. … There is nothing that says it has to be done this year or next.”
Lunde, who earlier this year expressed support for the road and LRT projects, said that attending community meetings and getting dozens of calls and e-mails in recent weeks had persuaded him that more community discussion is needed.
Every landowner along a 2-mile stretch would be affected under the Hennepin County proposal to widen W. Broadway and create space for the Bottineau LRT, which would run from Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park. More than two dozen Brooklyn Park homes could be purchased and razed and nearly 100 property owners would lose land if the $40 million road expansion happens.
The county’s road plan requires city approval and is critical to creating space for the proposed Bottineau LRT route. When the roadwork is complete, the Metropolitan Council would oversee construction of the LRT line in the center median, if federal funding can be secured. Officials hope the line would be operating by late 2019.
On Monday night, Lunde said discussion of the project should include fuller explanations about relocation benefits for displaced residents and visual mitigation efforts for those who remain.
Council Member John Jordan, a vocal opponent of the Broadway project, objected to the delay and demanded an immediate vote. The mayor ruled Jordan out of order and a tense moment ensued.
“You have hijacked this meeting, Mr. Mayor,” Jordan said. “Residents, you have seen how this has been handled. It’s a travesty.”
Residents along the route have shown up at public meetings, saying the road and LRT work would divide and destroy neighborhood peace.
The delay thwarts the county’s plans to start preliminary engineering on the road project this year and start acquiring homes in the way in 2015.
Proponents say the road changes and LRT would benefit the city for decades. Opponents contend the LRT should be rerouted and point out that while an affluent Minneapolis neighborhood could get $160 million in tunnels to hide the Southwest light-rail line, Brooklyn Park gets bulldozers and surface tracks.
Lunde is up for re-election this year and faces two challengers. On Tuesday, one of them, Joy Marsh Stephens, criticized the decision to delay the vote.
“I am disappointed that Mayor Lunde and the City Council decided to further delay the opportunity to create jobs and give a much-needed economic boost to our City,” she said in a prepared statement. “With all development and progress come difficult challenges. All residents should be well-informed and their concerns fully addressed as part of the ongoing planning process. The most effective way to overcome these challenges is to keep coming to the table, not by walking away from it.”