Homeowner says no way to road widening

First Street between School and Walker Streets in Braidwood is in need of repair, however, at least one homeowner is speaking out against a proposal by the city to widen the road, saying it will bring traffic too close to his home, and hurt property values.
Marney Simon
Staff writer

A long-time Braidwood resident is hoping that city leaders will keep their word not to take part of his land to widen one street desperately in need of repairs.

Tim Freckleton, a 39-year resident who lives at the corner of School and First Streets, approached members of the City Council on March 28. Freckleton said his land, which totals about eight-tenths of an acre, has been in his family for decades.

“This land has great sentimental value,” Freckleton told the members of the Braidwood City Council. “Why? Our family and relatives have owned this land for 84 years.”

Freckleton said on March 22, he was approached by Mayor Jim Vehrs and the city engineer with a plat of dedication, with the city looking to take a strip of land bordering First Street to make some much needed improvements along that road.

“We found out then what the city of Braidwood wanted to do to us, they wanted to either have us give it to them, or to take six feet of our land running the entire length of 306.68 feet,” Freckleton said. “So… that’s 1,840 square feet worth a market value of $7,000 to $10,000.”

Freckleton said that while he and his wife wanted to cooperate with the city, they were unable to give up their land for several reasons.

“Now we can survey and sell one big lot of the west part of our yard, we call it our back yard. It would amount to about .39 acres,” Freckleton said. “Right now, we have enough depth to barely do this. If the city got the 6 foot, that would put us in a situation where we couldn’t sell any of our backyard. And the only reason we would like to have that back yard as a security blanket, if we got in bad financial trouble we could always sell it to get by.”

Freckleton also called foul at the idea that First Street needs more than regular repairs.

“First Street in our opinion does not need to be widened, only blacktopped,” Freckleton said. “The road is in deplorable condition and it desperately needs blacktopping, but to make the street wider is pointless. It doesn’t need it as long as traffic has enough room for two vehicles to get by going opposite directions.”

Freckleton also pointed out that if the street were widened as the city had proposed, the roadway would come within 10 feet of the south side of his home. That said, Freckleton said that he’d been told the city would look at other options, but wanted to bring the matter to the public’s attention anyway.

“The mayor told us, the last time I talked to him, that Braidwood would not widen First Street, and that makes us very happy,” Freckleton said “They will only blacktop it. So, we are content for now. Jimmy’s word is good, so everything is okay for now. But they gave us a plat that made us very, very nervous, because it showed on the plat that they had everything laid out and they pretty much absolutely took this land… But hopefully this widening on First Street will not occur.”

Mayor Vehrs said the city had first approached the Freckletons hoping to get that strip of land, in an effort to use MFT funds for the road project.

“The reason why we approached Mr. Freckleton was, when you use motor fuel tax (MFT) money in your town, your roads have to meet the [standards] to use those funds, and First Street is not in those [standards]. It needs to be widened to use motor fuel tax money on, so the engineer and myself are coming to a different agreement here, and we’ll try to do something different on First Street.”

MFT funds are monies taken at the pump by the state, then returned to municipalities for road projects. The projects must be approved and fall under certain conditions.

Vehrs was not specific about what alternate work would be considered for repairing First Street, if MFT funds cannot be used on that project.