March 20, 2019 — A sometimes-heated discussion coupled with accusations of life endangerment gave way to neighborly compromise at the Dunes City council meeting last Wednesday as the council and residents spoke about issues of speeding, safety, the lack of law enforcement, and the need for residents to work together to solve issues facing the city.
The argument centered around Maple Drive, a small street that holds seven houses and a steep hill.
“I have received a complaint from almost everyone on that street regarding a resident who lives up the hill,” Dunes City Administrator/Recorder Jamie Mills said when intro-ducing the controversy to the council. “Basically, what they’re doing is getting to a certain point and then picking up speed to get up the hill. The young ones would come around at a high rate of speed and go up the hill. … What was happening is, the wheels were spinning on the gravel on the pavement, and they were having a hard time getting traction to get up the hill.”
The city had put in a speed bump just where the hill began to incline, but “the gravel was coming downhill and piling up,” Mills said. “The speed bump basically became a gravel hill that was causing problems.”
City staff removed the speed bump and cleared the gravel in hopes to reduce the need for the hill residents to pick up speed.
“Supposedly it is better, I thought, but in talking to some of the residents, it’s beyond my paygrade.”
The topic was opened for public comments, starting with David Heller.
“My wife Lori and I have lived on Maple Drive for seventeen years,” David said. “We and our neighbors on both Maple and Erhart Road have concerns regarding the behavior of David Graham and those residing at or visiting [his house up the hill], and the activities at their barn on Erhart Road.”
Heller listed complaints of excessive speed, gunfire, multiple barking dogs and the odor of oil from vehicles that were being tested at the resident’s barn.
“And then there’s Mr. Graham’s apparent disregard for his neighbor’s safety,” David continued. “If speed bumps are the answer, we believe they should be installed lower down on Maple Drive, before they can get up the hill. Finally, we appreciate Jamie’s responsiveness to our concerns because Mr. Graham seems to be approachable and unresponsive to date.”
At that point Maple Drive resident Brian Lincoln, whose wife and one-and-a-half-year-old baby was also in attendance at the meeting, spoke.
“I’ve had concerns since I’ve moved in about vehicles going about 30 to 45 miles per hour,” he said. “I’ve been told by Jamie the speed is supposed to be 10 miles per hour, but Dunes City cannot enforce it.”
The city lacks its own police force, relying instead on the Lane County Sheriff’s department and Oregon State Police, who are rarely unable to patrol the area, let alone enforce traffic laws on small streets like Maple Drive.
“Letters to David Graham didn’t help,” Lincoln continued. “He never responded, and nothing was done. I’ve never spoken to him. I’ve tried waving, he doesn’t wave back. I’m a friendly neighbor. Our road is narrow, no protection for any of our neighbors to get our mail. My neighbor across the way is hard of hearing and is sometimes fearful of going to the mailbox because he can’t hear. There’s been times when he has almost been struck by a car.”
Lincoln stated that the Graham’s and their children were not the only ones who sped up Maple Drive, saying, “I’ve stopped UPS a few weeks ago and told him to slow down. He was gunning it up the hill and going down the hill fast.”
And it’s not just issues with Maple Drive, but all of Dunes City, according to Lincoln.
But while the issue was speeding as an issue throughout the town, Lincoln was there to talk about Maple Drive.
He suggested putting in speed limit signs and a speed bump, a solution not championed by everyone on the street. Mills read aloud a letter from Maple Drive resident Duane Fowler, whose driveway was right next to the recently removed speed bump.
“Regarding Maple Drive speed bump, it should be called a stop bump, because I have to come to a stop in ease my car over the one that was installed just below my driveway,” Fowler wrote.
“There is a curve just above my driveway, so there is a limited view of anyone coming down, and if someone is speeding coming down, and I have to stop for the stop bump, there could be an accident.”
Fowler requested that if there was to be a speed bump installed, it should be done above his driveway, but he said the best thing that could be done is to continually sweep the gravel.
“If Dune City can have this done a couple times a year, that would help out a lot,” he said.
It helped out so much, in fact, that some Maple Drive residents did not believe that anything substantial needed to be done. Mills spoke on a conversation she had with Maple Drive resident Aaron Holmes about the issue.
Graham came up to speak to council.
“Ugh,” he said while sitting down. “You guys have teenage kids?”
Regarding the sounds of gunfire, Graham said, “That’s my oldest boy Nathan. He did have a little shooting range and the back of the property. He does not do that anymore. A lot of the complaints are from months past. Nathan has also moved out with his girlfriend. Nathan has a lead foot, but he’s a good kid. He’s not there anymore, he’s not a concern.”
But Graham did have another son who lived on the property.
“I have had a chat with my youngest,” said Graham. “I told him he needs to slow down and limit his friends going up there.”
Another problem was that nobody seemed to know what the actual speed limit was, since there were no posted signs. He had heard numerous numbers, 10, 15 miles per hour.
“Where I come from, if it’s not marked, it’s 25 miles per hour,” Graham said. “If you’re in a school zone, it’s 20 or 25 miles per hour. So, I have been driving 20 or 25 miles per hour. So yes, I’ve been speeding, I guess, not knowing I was speeding. Thinking I was doing the speed limit.”
Graham stated that he wanted to obey the law and quell concerns.
“I guess my point is, a lot of complaints,” he said. “I agree. No one’s ever approached me. I never met you sir.”
Graham addressed David, who shook his head and said “no.”
“You go too fast for us to approach you,” Lori Heller said.
“There’s a number on the side of my van,” Graham responded. “You can call it at any time.”
“You guys can talk afterwards,” Council President Sheldon Meyer said, trying to abate an argument. He closed public comment, throwing the discussion to the councilors.
“I’m not sure which direction we should go,” Councilor Robert Orr said. “I don’t see any problem with the signage, I think that makes a lot of sense.”
And neither did any other of the councilors, though there was some confusion as to what the speed limit was. But Orr was concerned about the speed bumps.
“One person says yes we need speed bumps, but then somebody else says the speed bump that has been put in is a danger. Then another one yet still seems to say that removing the gravel has made things better. I’m not clear on that one at all. … I think we run some risk of doing the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing. But something should be done.”
The council decided that two signs needed to be posted in the area to clearly delineate the speed limit. As far as the speed bump, the council wanted to look into it further before making a final decision.
“It may not be a perfect solution, but I think we’re headed to try to resolve a bunch of issues and hopefully upset fewer people than we’re pleasing,” Meyer said. “That’s democracy.”
As the councilor’s moved on to other issues, the Heller’s and the Lincoln’s went up to Graham, who was preparing to leave. Heller extended his hand.
“My name is David nice to meet you,” he said. “I apologize for all of this.”
Graham shook Heller’s hand, smiled.
“You could just slow down and say hi sometimes,” said Lincoln.
“And wave,” Lori added.
The group laughed and began to talk. Meyer, who was attempting to move on to other business, had to stop their conversation.
“I love to have you guys communicating, but… “He said as the group began to move outside. “But keep it up!”
The final decision on the speed bump will be made by the council during a special, city-wide town hall discussing drinking water and the shared domestic water supply program, which will be held at the Dunes City Hall on Thursday, March 21 from 6 to 9 p.m.
All residents are welcomed to attend.