By JANICE PODSADA
MUKILTEO — Mukilteo’s pearly gates swung open Monday to saints and speeders alike.
A city engineering crew removed the white swinging gate by court order at Saint Andrews Drive early Monday, reopening the road to traffic a month after its closure.
The residential street may not be the road to heaven, but for many it’s the road to Harbour Pointe.
Autumn Oresik, 17, a senior at Kamiak High School, learned Monday afternoon that Saint Andrews Drive was open, at least until a judge’s decision is made sometime next month.
"I’m going to use it," Autumn said, resolutely. "And I’m going to tell my friends it’s open."
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Richard Thorpe ordered the city to remove the gate Sept. 28, after a homeowner’s group, Citizens for Connected Communities, sued the city for closing the street.
Saint Andrews Drive will remain open until the court determines whether the city council’s decision to dead-end the street is legal. That decision should come sometime after Nov. 13, after the judge has reviewed documents related to the road’s closure.
Citizens for Connected Communities posted a $5,000 bond last week to remove the gate.
The bond represents the cost to open and possibly close the gate again, city administrator Rich Leahy said.
Residents put up the $17,000 for the gate, but some are now worried that legal costs will outweigh the investment in the long run.
"The trial will be extensive," resident William Olason said at a recent Mukilteo City Council meeting. "The costs to the Mukilteo taxpayers compounds daily."
In addition to contributions from residents, the city initially kicked in $1,200 for construction, said Tom Hansen, Mukilteo public works director. That doesn’t include the thousands of dollars of hourly pay to the workers who installed the gate.
Hansen told the court that the gate’s removal will cost from $2,000 to $5,000.
Citizens for Connected Communities filed the lawsuit in August claiming that the gate limited community access.
The group also claims the gate is illegal and slows down police and medical access to residents living outside city limits.
However, Mukilteo city administrator Rich Leahy said the city has no authority to provide police or fire services to unincorporated Snohomish County.
"They’ve demanded we conduct emergency response times," Leahy said. "We tell them to contact the county sheriff or Fire District 1. We don’t go there unless Fire District 1 calls in the Mukilteo Fire Department."
Leahy said the gate is not about a neighborhood’s selfish desire for peace and quiet.
The people who support the gate have complained of vandalism and speeders who drive along the 25 mph street in excess of 40 mph.
"The people of Saint Andrews Drive feel it’s a safety issue. The citizens group is making light of safety issues."
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