The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

March 6, 2014

Concerns about land near Wal-Mart raises some safety concerns

By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON -- Property owner Dave Rose has two companies interested in his lots behind Wal-Mart. They’re “national companies” and have approached him with a “proposal to create 50 jobs,” he said.

On Wednesday, following a unanimous decision from the Clinton Plan Commission, Rose is doubtful of his prospects, even though he was technically green lighted. But he doesn’t resent the board’s position, either.

“This kind of cancels it out,” Rose said. “I respect the decision. And it just means I have to buy another piece, and this piece will not be developed. These companies want to be so close to Wal-Mart. They want to see Wal-Mart.”

Both Rose and city engineer Jason Craft approached the commission to talk about a “curb cut” -- altering the existing concrete curb to create an entrance. Lots 4 and 5, owned by Rose and located on the southeast corner of Manufacturing Drive and Valley West Courtyard, put businesses in view of Wal-Mart, Kohls and other big-name retailers. The plans call for construction of two buildings over two phases with entrances 350 feet from the intersection.

The companies (which Rose declined to name) had one major stipulation: the development must have two road access ways to the parking lot, one for each adjacent street. Given the speed and congestion of the nearby intersection, that was something Craft could not recommend.

Manufacturing Drive has a 45 miles-per-hour speed limit, and positioning an entrance so close to the intersection is against state guidelines, increasing the potential for accidents. The city, Craft added, doesn’t “arbitrarily” change speed limits, and he doubted lowering speeds to fit state recommendations would prevent drivers from traveling at today’s limits.

This alone wouldn’t do away with the curb-cut. Ideally, Rose said his entry-ways would be “right-turn, left-turn,” giving drivers the ability to turn either direction from the access point. Commission members shied away from that idea, in favor of a one-way or “right-in, right-out” entrance.

“From a planning viewpoint, we have to be cautious and follow the engineer’s recommendation,” said commission member Tom Lonergan.

“We need the business -- there’s no two ways about it,” said commission member Sue Tugana. “But at some point you have to say we’re not going to have a road become another (danger).”

After a motion by Lonergan, the board recommended a one-way entrance for the curb-cut. With their approval, Rose can move forward to the Clinton City Council for final permission.

But he doesn’t plan to take it that far, nor will he try for permission for a two-way entrance.

“I wouldn’t get any farther (with the council) unless the commission let this go forward,” Rose said.

When learning the development might be dead without right and left turn access, Lonergan sympathized but stood by the commission’s recommendation. Clinton, he said, wants to create jobs and attract more businesses -- just not while creating more traffic concerns.

A two-way access right now might not cause too many problems. However, if the area develops as the commission expects, the conditions could become hazardous.

“I think it’s a good development for the location,” he added. “But when you take a partially developed area and you put a relatively high speed road through it, now you’re talking (Department of Transportation) regulations -- you can’t just ignore them completely without having chaos.”

If the commission ignored Craft’s recommendation, Lonergan said the development wouldn’t make it past the city council.

Rose estimated the development at $3.4 million. He reported the companies have surveyed other lots within and outside of city limits.