See more of the story

Bike lanes are back in the picture for W. 70th Street in Edina, where a citizens' study committee had suggested the lanes be dropped so residents could retain on-street parking.

The Edina City Council surprised some residents Tuesday night by directing city staff to include bike lanes in improvement plans for W. 70th. That contradicted the recommendations of the advisory committee that for more than two years had been studying ways to make the street safer.

"What happened last night was a sucker punch to residents," said Jan Ferrell, who lives on W. 70th.

The council's directive agrees with the city's comprehensive plan update, which identifies W. 70th as a route for bike lanes. The Bike Edina Task Force has called for bike paths along the street, which slices through Edina east-to-west, from the Galleria to Hwy. 100.

The street also has been identified as a possible route for a segment of a Three Rivers Park District bike and walking path that would run 17 miles from Hopkins through Richfield near and along Nine Mile Creek.

At the meeting, council members said they were surprised that more residents didn't show up to argue for keeping their parking. Ferrell said many of her neighbors had assumed the recommendations of the study group would prevail.

"I just don't know how anyone can justify having a bike trail in my front yard as an asset to my home," she said. "It's very discouraging to have this happen after public comment was over."

Steve Brown, chairman of the study committee, told the council that as a commercial real estate agent, he thought the loss of on-street parking could affect the property values of homeowners on W. 70th. The street is so busy that residents sometimes have trouble backing out of their driveways.

Brown said he did not know if bike lanes would enhance property values.

The goal of the W. 70th Street study was to find ways to slow and reduce traffic along the street, which is lined with homes and a school but has been plagued by speeding drivers. Among the committee's suggestions were to add roundabouts near Hwy. 100, put stoplights at some intersections and keep the street the same width.

The council accepted the report, but all five council members favored bike lanes. Mayor Jim Hovland pointed out that a survey of people who live on or near W. 70th showed that 57 percent want bike lanes.

Wary of the cost of a total reworking of the road, council members indicated they want to move slowly, using the least expensive measures to control traffic before trying more costly options like roundabouts. The road is scheduled to be resurfaced in 2010 at a cost of $1.2 million.

The council's favored measures included removal of the unimpeded right turn onto W. 70th from northbound Hwy. 100, enforcement of a low-speed school zone near Cornelia Elementary School, dynamic speed signs that show drivers how fast they're going, and a narrowing of traffic lanes.

Some council members also wondered whether parking could be retained on one side of the street while bike lanes are striped on the other side.

The city will take written comments until March 3 and work on a schematic design for the street, with a goal of having a plan within a month.

Builder loses setback bid

In other action, the council unanimously rejected without comment a request by JMS Custom Homes to overturn a zoning appeals ruling that denied his request for a setback variance on Brookview Avenue.

The new house at 6120 Brookview violates code by being seven feet too close to the street, the city says. JMS submitted building plans to the city that apparently contained a surveying error, though the builder does not admit any mistake.

Neighbors are up in arms over the new house, which was built on the southern half of a double lot that is classified by the city as a single parcel for building purposes. The new home is next to and positioned in front of one of the oldest homes in Edina.

Fourteen people testified about the house, most of them saying JMS should be forced to move the house to the center of the lot. The case is already in district court, where JMS got a stop-work order from the city overturned so the home could be completed.

Neighbors on Brookview were elated by the council's decision. Developer Jeff Schoenwetter on Wednesday estimated that it would cost $20,000 to $50,000 to move his $900,000 house. Schoenwetter, whom neighbors have dubbed "the bully builder," said he was being unfairly demonized and that he has not decided what to do next.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380