STEWARTVILLE — Daniel Ware’s little slice of paradise measures 66 feet by 660 feet, and he doesn’t want to see it cut in half.

That, though, is the plan being floated by the city of Stewartville, which would like to connect two dead ends in the 500 block of Fourth Avenue Southeast. Wednesday night, during the city council meeting, there will be a public hearing on the 2019 street and utilities improvement project, which will includes that stretch of Fourth Avenue.

“I want to walk back and forth to my own garden after all these years without having to cross an open highway,” he said.

From the east side of his property, where his house sits, to the west side is a hike for the octogenarian. But the west side includes his gardens where everything from corn to mulberries grow. “They make a wonderful jam,” he said. Ware said he makes the trip across what the city would like to turn into a paved street about 20 times a day as he goes back and forth from his house to his garden and shed.

That garden includes potatoes, cabbages, broccoli, chokecherries and flowers planted where his mother kept her garden.

Touring his long, thin acre in the middle of town – a platted parcel that goes back about a century – Ware can tell you the history of just about everything in his yard.

“All these trees are a hundred and something years old,” he said, pointing to a particular row of leafy giants.

Over the years, a few have fallen due to storms, but Ware remembers planting many of them. The others, they’ve been there since before he was born. That includes a hazelnut bush that would need to be cut down before the road is connected and a stand of pines he planted that would be in the middle of the road.

Bill Schimmel, Stewartville’s city administrator, said with the street project planned to upgrade the roads and underground infrastructure along that stretch of Fourth Avenue, it just makes sense to offer to buy Ware’s land and connect the two ends of Fourth Avenue Southeast now.

“We’re in that neighborhood,” Schimmel said. “We’ve got equipment there, so it seems an opportunity to take advantage of that.”

In addition to the savings of connecting the road while they’re already out there, a connected Fourth Avenue would make it easier for plowing, seal coating and other maintenance issues.

“And it’d ease up some of the congestion by Bonner Elementary School, especially in the mornings,” Schimmel said.

Ware calls that a dubious claim, but wonders if the city is so concerned about fixing dead ends and alleyways, why isn’t it looking at the others in town.

“We’ve got cul de sacs, dead ends and alleyways, there’s dozens of them all over town,” Ware said. “I know all of them, I worked for the city for 60 years.”

And after 60 years of service, he said, you’d think the city would let him enjoy his property in peace, not in pieces.

“Why the hell would they want to do that now after 60 years I gave this city?” Ware asked.

Many of his neighbors agree. He has a petition with about 25 names on it. “It’s all neighbors,” Ware said. “They don’t want it.”

The public hearing Wednesday would give neighbors a chance, one way or the other, to let the city know how they think, Schimmel said. And if the city council hears people supporting a connection of the road, it might use eminent domain to force a sale.

Schimmel said there would be benefits for Ware if he sold the land for the street – a 66-by-66-foot square that would cut the property in half – such as being able to sell lots for new homes to be built.

“I don’t want to sell the lots, or I’d have done it 60 years ago,” Ware said.

Instead, he just wants to enjoy the land like he has for decades, and like his parents did before him, almost a century ago.

 

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Regional Reporter

Brian covers Goodhue, Wabasha and Winona counties, and tells newsroom tales each Friday in his After Deadline column. He also covers agricultural issues for AgriNews. He is a 1997 graduate of Nebraska-Omaha.

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