Neighbors of Fridley Medical Center Keep Up Yard Sign Protest
Residents at one nearby house aren't happy about a new institutional neighbor—and they're using yard signs to say so.
Handmade signs stick out of the snow in the side yard at the corner of Fifth Street NE and Osborne Road. They're not political or business signs—they're signs of protest, facing the new Fridley Medical Center just across Fifth Street.
Brothers Steve and Bruce Nelson live in the house at the corner and put out the signs. They are upset that the Fridley City Council permitted construction of the medical center on land that's zoned residential. But the Nelsons' yard sign protest is focused on the entrance/exit of the medical center parking lot, located mid-block on Fifth Street, opposite their garage.
"We're the house that's affected the most, because of the [parking lot] driveway," said Bruce Nelson. "We feel we have no other alternative but to put up signs." He has lived in the house for six years, renting from Steve, who has lived there since 1993 and owned the property since 1999. They grew up a couple miles east near Osborne Road and Bacon Drive NE.
The brothers say that since the center opened last month, they've borne the brunt of heavy traffic in and out of the center's parking lot, part of the newly expanded Unity Hospital campus. They complain of noise, headlights and so much congestion that they have trouble backing out of their driveway. They want the parking lot entrance/exit moved off of Fifth Street to Osborne Road.
That's not going to happen, said Scott Hickok, Fridley's community development director.
First, Hickok said, the parking lot is built, and the brothers' protest comes too late, long after public hearings on the project held last year that they didn't attend. (Another Fifth Street neighbor did attend a hearing, expressing concern about the height of berms planned for the lot perimeter. The Nelsons' said they got one public-hearing notice but not one for a second date.)
Hickok added that Anoka County doesn't want parking-lot entrances emptying onto Osborne Road (also County State Aid Highway 8). An alternative would have aligned the parking lot access with 76th Avenue NE but Hickok said that risked putting more medical center traffic further into the residential neighborhood.
The parking lot is "the best design possible, considering what functions it has," said Hickok. "We tried to keep the neighborhood with as little impact as possible."
That is also the view expressed by Melissa Berggren, a spokesperson at Allina, which owns Unity Hospital. The hospital's Virginia Piper Cancer Institute occupies part of the new Fridley Medical Center, along with the medical center's owner, Multicare Associates.
She said the parking lot access was "designed so when you're exiting, you can only turn right [toward Osborne Road]." That steers traffic away from the residential neighborhood, but she acknowledged it still affects the Nelsons, located as they are along the short Fifth Street exit route.
The Nelson brothers said they are considering various courses of action, including seeking mediation or circulating a neighborhood petition. They also have a new sign in the works, now in the garage, that they'll unveil soon.
"We're not done," said Bruce Nelson.