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Council invites Willow Lake residents to speak Sept. 25



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September 05, 2012 - By C.J. Carnacchio

Leader Editor

Residents living in the Willow Lake subdivision in Oxford Township will be given an opportunity to speak about whether or not they favor a cut-through traffic reduction measure recently rejected by the village council.

Council will revisit the issue at its 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 meeting, which will take place at 22 W. Burdick St.

"I would like to hear from the residents," said village President Tom Benner. "They have a legitimate concern and it's a safety issue, also."

At its Aug. 14 meeting, council voted 3-1 to deny a traffic control order that would have prohibited right-turns from westbound Lakeville Rd. onto State St. from 7-8 a.m. on school days only.

State St. leads in and out of the Willow Lake subdivision, connecting Lakeville and N. Oxford roads. It's often used by students looking for a shortcut to and from Oxford High School. The route is a way to avoid the traffic signal at the intersection of Lakeville and N. Oxford roads and the bumper-to-bumper vehicular backups that usually occur there in the early morning and later afternoon.

Council rejected the traffic control order, which was originally recommended by the Road Commission for Oakland County back in January 2007. A traffic survey conducted on September 19, 2006 counted 50 vehicles in the morning using State St. to get from Lakeville Rd. to N. Oxford Rd.

For some reason, the road commission's recommendation was never acted upon by council back then. It was recently brought to the village's attention by Oxford Township Trustee Mike Spisz, which led to council's Aug. 14 discussion and rejection of the recommendation.

Council members cited the absence of complaints from Willow Lake residents and a desire to not show "favoritism" by reducing one public street's cut-through woes, while not doing the same thing for other public streets with similar traffic problems due to nearby schools.

Township Supervisor Bill Dunn went to the podium and told council how disappointed he was by its decision.

"The people that are cutting through are young people who are generally in a hurry," he said. "They're notoriously carrying electronic devices (which distract them while driving).

Dunn explained that he would rather drivers, particularly young ones, be required to travel the longer route along Lakeville Rd. and N. Glaspie St./N. Oxford Rd., so they will encounter both a traffic signal and a stop sign. That would help control their speed on the way to school.

Even though the Willow Lake subdivision is located entirely within the township's jurisdiction, the portion of Lakeville Rd. that intersects with State St. is under the village's control.

Dunn was also upset the village didn't notify Willow Lake residents before its Aug. 14 meeting, so they could attend and express their concerns.

"I don't believe the residents were even aware that was even on the agenda," he said. "I didn't know it was going to be on the agenda."

Dunn took issue with Councilman Dave Bailey's previous comments about how neither he nor council received any complaints from Willow Lake residents.

"I can tell you over the last six years, I've had the complaints," he said.

Bailey stood by his comments.

"I do not remember it coming before the council," he said, noting there was nothing about it in past meeting minutes. "And nobody complained to me personally six years ago."

Bailey noted he's willing to readdress the issue and listen to residents' concerns and receive their input.

"Right now, we have six years of silence," he said.

The supervisor noted that the township would be willing to pay for the 'no right-turn' sign to help these residents.

"It does affect our streets and I don't have a problem paying for the sign," he said.

Councilman Elgin Nichols expressed his concern that eliminating right-turns at Lakeville Rd. and State St. for that one-hour a day could "inconvenience" Willow Lake residents.

Dunn noted that police officers wouldn't necessarily have to cite Willow Lake residents who violate the order. They could let them off given they're not using it as a cut-through.

"They do have discretion," he said. "They don't have to automatically give you a ticket."

Nichols didn't like that idea.

"The law's the law," he said.

Back in 2007, the township approved a traffic control order prohibiting left-turns from N. Oxford Rd. onto State St. from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m. school days only. This was done to help reduce afternoon cut-through traffic in Willow Lake.

"We have half the problem solved," Dunn said. "We addressed our portion."

Benner inquired as to how much it's actually enforced because he still sees "quite a few cars" making left-turns there.

"There are people going through there on the way home," he said.

Dunn responded that obviously, Oakland County Sheriff's deputies can't be out there every day, but when they are, they hand out about 20 to 30 tickets.

That usually rectifies the situation for a month or two, he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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