Nicolet, Glendale sue River Hills over street closing

Leaders claim move would have negative impact on school, public safety

Nov. 27, 2009

The city of Glendale and the Nicolet School District have filed a lawsuit against River Hills in an effort to block the village from going forward with its plan to close portions of Green Tree Road.

The legal action stems from a Nov. 19 decision by the River Hills Village Board to close the eastbound lane of Green Tree Road near Interstate 43 on a six-month pilot basis. Emergency vehicles, school buses and utility trucks would be permitted to use the eastbound lane, under the proposal.

River Hills officials say the closure is an effort to minimize dangers to residents living on the street. Residents have objected to speeding motorists, litter and semitrailers on the stretch of road and said the Glendale Market is responsible for much of the problem. The shopping center is in Glendale just east of the Green Tree Road bridge that travels into River Hills.

But Glendale and Nicolet have countered that the closure proves equally hazardous to people, particularly high schoolers, who use Green Tree as an alternative to nearby Port Washington and Bender roads, both of which are already heavily traveled.

Suit claims plan is illegal

The lawsuit, which was filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, says River Hills doesn't have the authority to close the road because doing so would violate state law. It also claims the project would interfere with Nicolet's right to have "free and unobstructed use" of Green Tree Road.

The suit asks the court to permanently stop the village's efforts to close the road.

Glendale City Administrator Richard Maslowski said the three Nicolet feeder districts have sent letters supporting the lawsuit. Those letters will be part of the court submission, he said. All the districts, including Nicolet, are concerned the closure would affect school bus schedules.

Closure would affect fire, police

Although the eastbound lane would remain open to emergency vehicles, Glendale officials also fear a slowed response time would result. That could impact North Shore Fire Department responses to residences in Fox Point as well as police and fire responses to the portion of Glendale east of the interstate.

Both Nicolet and Glendale offered to work with River Hills on alternatives to closing the road, such as a roundabout or speed bumps. In anticipation of the start of the school year, the River Hills board in August approved additional stop signs at the intersection of Green Tree and Jean Nicolet roads as a first step in finding a solution.

The stop signs have helped slow traffic, according to residents, but the half closure is still needed they say. They hired their own traffic consultant, Wayne Higgins of Traffic Engineering Services. Higgins presented the concept of a half closure to the River Hills board in October.

The Glendale Common Council, in an effort to determine the scope of the problem on Green Tree Road, late this summer hired its own traffic consultant, Traffic Design and Analysis, to do a traffic study. That study will include traffic counts taken both during and after the Good Hope Road construction, which most agree led to increased traffic on Green Tree as drivers attempted to avoid the congestion resulting from the road work.

Maslowski said he expects the results of the study next week.

River Hills Village Manager Tom Tollaksen said he received the summons and complaint Monday.

"It was referred to our insurer for defense," he said. The insurance company will determine if the village's policy covers the defense of the lawsuit.

Alan Marcuvitz of Michael Best and Friedrich is representing the city, while Katherine Maloney Perhach of Quarles and Brady is representing Nicolet.

River Hills has 20 days to respond in writing to the complaint. Tollaksen said he expects the response will be filed on or about Dec. 18.

- Additional reporting by Mary Buckley

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