Tapawingo threatens to sue to stop city survey

Survey is illegal, Tapawingo lawyer claims


This aerial shot from Google Maps shows some of the streets of Tapawingo, around Tapawingo National Golf Club.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

Attorneys for the Manors at Tapawingo subdivision have threatened to take the city to court if aldermen send out a survey seeking residents’ views on taking over the subdivision’s private streets.

The idea of the city taking over the streets has been an issue off and on for a decade, but tensions flared on the topic at the last two Board of Aldermen meetings.

The streets, which are in need of repair, would need to be brought up to city standards before Sunset Hills would take them over. Not every slab would need immediate repair, but all the slabs are now 20 years old and nearing the projected end of life for typical slabs, which is roughly 25 years. Aldermen said the potential cost, possibly spread over decades, could add up to $3 million — 1,500 slabs at $2,000 each. The 63 “deficient” slabs would have to be replaced immediately, with 261 visually deficient but not immediate needs.

Adding to the debate, Mayor Pat Fribis is being challenged in the Tuesday, June 2 election by a Tapawingo resident, John Stephens.

Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler, who lives in Tapawingo, said last week that many of the slabs have already been replaced and wouldn’t have to be fixed by the city. She noted that only 10 slabs have to be fixed on average per street per year. She also questioned in March why the Grandview subdivision streets had been taken over by the city while Tapawingo’s haven’t. City Engineer Bryson Baker and Fribis said the two situations were not comparable since Grandview was always intended to be public while Tapawingo developers had maintained that the subdivision’s streets would be private.

“(Grandview streets) were built to be public. (Tapawingo streets) were built to be private into perpetuity,” said Fribis.

“It is a subdivision that is full of residents, full of voters too, but that doesn’t seem to matter,” said Baebler. “But to make this a political issue once again when we’re talking to residents, I think that’s wrong and not fair… It’s a political hotbed and I really don’t understand why… In full disclosure it’s $800 in my subdivision to maintain streets and sidewalks and whatever else, so I don’t think that’s enough for any one person to be so driven to try to run for office.”

General municipal elections are Tuesday, June 2, postponed from April 7. Up for election in Sunset Hills are Fribis, Ward 4 Alderman Thompson Price, Ward 3 Alderman Kurt Krueger, Ward 1 Alderman Ann McMunn and Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong. Wong and McMunn are unopposed, while Stephens is running against Fribis for mayor, Cathy Friedmann is running for Ward 3 alderman against Krueger and Drew Hrach is running for Ward 4 alderman against Price.

Wong proposed May 12 that the city conduct a survey to gather resident opinions on taking over the Tapawingo streets.

Baebler objected, saying that hadn’t been done when the city took over any other subdivision’s streets.

The Lathrop GPM law firm that represents Tapawingo residents sent a letter to the city last week noting that a survey is not required by the city ordinance to take over streets. That meant the move was essentially amending the ordinance and therefore illegal, attorney Colleen Ruiz wrote.

If the city does not cease and desist, the Tapawingo residents could sue the city or seek a temporary restraining order to stop the survey, Ruiz said in the letter.

Staff Reporter Erin Achenbach contributed to this article. 

Editor’s note: A sentence in the print version of this article that gave inaccurate information about where Mayor Pat Fribis lives has been deleted from the online version. She has lived in the Sunset Greens subdivision for more than 40 years. 

Read the letter from Tapawingo attorney Colleen Ruiz below:

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