“I didn’t go to the meeting” in 2019, said Patti. “I thought they’re going to force us out of our house. They’re going to want to buy it. They’re going to want the house so they can tear it down and have more room.”
Her husband did go, and when the family attorney got involved to run interference with the county on the process, transportation leaders made what seemed to be a crucial decision.
The Birch Street Reconstruction Project has the busy Lino Lakes thoroughfare torn up this summer as two roundabouts flanking Rice Lake Elementary School are going in. The Barrys live on the northeast corner of the easternmost roundabout, on the corner of Birch and West Shadow Lake Drive.
“(The Barrys) knew what they wanted,” said Jason Orcutt, an engineering program manager with the Anoka County Transportation Division. “They came in and we said we’re going to listen, and then I can’t promise you anything, but we’re going to look at what we’re going to do, and we’re going to try to find a solution here for you. And we did.”
The Barrys simply wanted to keep their home, which Patrick said they built by hand over a three-year period in the late 1970s.
“There’s a lot of meaning in here,” said Patti. “This is where we’d like to have our retirement.”
So the county worked through Right-of-Way Specialist Susan R. Anderson to keep the dialogue with the Barrys open.
“Listen,” said Anderson. “That’s the biggest thing we could do is to keep listening to their concerns.”
Among the accomodations, the county moved West Shadow Lake Drive slightly to the west at its intersection with the roundabout, along with making the circle more oval- or olive-shaped, to further shift traffic away from the corner of the Barrys’ house.
“We won’t concede on safety, absolutely,” said Orcutt. “But there are things we will do to accommodate.”
“Patti and I talk maybe once a week,” said Anderson.
The Barrys will get a new fence once the road re-opens, courtesy of the county.
“When we first started, there was a lot of negative people saying ‘This is going to be terrible, you don’t want this and that.’ But if you’re lucky enough to get the people we worked with, Susan and Jason, you can work with them!”
The Birch Street project is slated to be mostly completed–and the road back open in both directions–by the start of school on September 7.