The Egg Harbor Parks and Public Works Committee will proceed with its plan for a substantial widening and overhaul of Highway 42 at the north and south ends of the village, despite objections from at least seven of the 23 property owners between the County E/Highway 42 intersection and the Church Street/Highway 42 intersection. The committee was unanimous in its decision after a brief overview of alternative plans was reviewed during its July 6 meeting.
The project to widen the roadway with bike lanes and curb and gutter, and to add sidewalks on both sides of the highway, will require the removal of scores of trees and landscaping within the right-of-way. Property owners asked the village to take a more surgical approach to the project to save front yards, landscaping and trees.
“The footprint is larger than it needs to be,” said Lynn Sprangers, who has owned a home at 7917 Hwy 42 for 12 years. “Why are we taking so much of the existing trees and green space out of there when there are other ways to do it? Once this area gets bulldozed and this space is gone, we can’t go back and fix it.”
Sprangers said she wants sidewalks for public safety and walking, but the treatment of that stretch of the project doesn’t have to be the same as the treatment in the core project in the center of the village.
“This stretch is an asset, with the beauty, green space and trees as you enter the village from the north,” she said.
The village first embarked on project discussions in 2015, and the sidewalks have been a part of the plan since at least 2019. But Sprangers and other north-end residents said they didn’t realize the scope of the impact until survey crews placed stakes in their lawns.
The plan includes adding four-foot bike lanes, curb and gutter, and then a six-foot terrace (a buffer of grass or plantings) and a five-foot sidewalk. Though it is all within the highway’s 66-foot right-of-way, it will result in the upheaval of anywhere from 12 to 27 feet of what many of the property owners have used and landscaped as their front yards.
Sprangers and other property owners asked the village to reconsider the plan once its scope became clear during meetings earlier this summer.
Susan Stauber’s home is one of the oldest in the village and stands a little more than 12 feet from the road. As planned, the sidewalk would have to run along her front door. When she learned about this, village officials told her that the six-foot terrace was what the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) required. But Stauber spoke to officials at the DOT and learned that the terrace is a recommended practice, but not required. She worked with neighbors to suggest alternative plans based on recent projects in Ephraim, Sister Bay and Fish Creek.
“Sidewalks have been added in other communities with more respect for the properties,” Stauber said, pointing to the sidewalks added in 2019 in Ephraim, where no terrace was installed in certain areas to save yards and tree canopy. In that case, Ephraim installed sidewalks on only the east side of the road, between Bay Breeze Motel and Harborside Park. Ephraim business owners have said the project has greatly increased walking traffic in the area.
Ephraim Administrator Brent Bristol helped to steward that project. He said the village did not need a special exemption for the design, but village officials did have multiple conversations with DOT officials to push the project closer to the minimum acceptable standard for the sidewalk rather than the maximum preferred design.
“A big one for us was, if this was going to be something that encroached further into properties, we didn’t want that cross section to look significantly wider,” Bristol said.
In exchange for not putting in a terrace between the curb and the sidewalk, the village had to put in a six-foot sidewalk instead of a five-foot one.
At the Parks and Public Works meeting, Stauber asked Mike Simon, the village’s chief consultant on the highway project, whether it was worth looking more closely at what Ephraim and other communities have done to preserve trees near the sidewalk and roadway.
“I’m not familiar with either of those projects,” Simon said.
Lisa VanLaanen, the chair of the Parks and Public Works Committee, told the petitioners she appreciated their concerns but didn’t see a reason to change the plan.
“We’d like to make you happy and say yes, but that isn’t in the best interest of the village, and it isn’t in the best interest of safety,” she said. “I really don’t agree that we should eliminate the terrace.”
Village President John Heller and fellow committee members Kaaren Northrop and Ed Conlon agreed.
Bridget Browning, who owns property at the corner of County E and Highway 42, said she felt ignored by the village.
“I really don’t feel we’re being represented here,” Browning said. “We have 20 people who are impacted by this who don’t matter as much as the people who walk by our property. I don’t feel we’re being heard; we’re being disregarded. We’ve worked hard to come forward with this respectfully. I think we supplied a good argument, and it’s being disregarded.”
Work on the highway project will begin in the fall of 2023.