A request by a Riverside resident to place a cul-de-sac on Berkeley Road near Harlem Avenue was given the thumbs down earlier this month after the village’s police chief, fire chief and public works director recommended against it.

Steven O’Donnell, a resident of Berkeley Road, urged the village to block access to his street from Harlem Avenue last July after he was the victim of an apparent home invasion a month earlier.

O’Donnell and his wife were in bed at about 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning in June when someone rang the doorbell to their home. They ignored it and shortly after heard the sounds of someone forcing open the side door to their home.

No one was injured and the offender fled when O’Donnell shouted and scared him off. The offender fled in a vehicle that drove across his neighbor’s front yard toward Harlem Avenue.

After that incident, O’Donnell approached the village board to see if Berkeley Road could be closed off to Harlem Avenue. Berkeley Road, he said at the time, “invites this sort of thing, because this was a crime of opportunity. Whoever did this knows they could easily get in and out.”

The option preferred by single-family home owners in the neighborhood and illustrated in a proposal signed by 20 residents of Berkeley and Byrd roads proposed excavating Berkeley Road east of a driveway leading to a townhome development north of Berkeley Road, shutting off all access from Harlem Avenue.

Neighbors also proposed the village buying all of the commercial property on Harlem Avenue between Berkeley and Longcommon roads or just the vacant property at 2704 Harlem Ave. and turning it into greenspace.

After O’Donnell made his request last summer, village officials collected some traffic and crime data and visited the site to see if a cul-de-sac was feasible.

One problem with excavating the street east of the townhouse driveway all the way to Harlem Avenue, said officials, was problematic because doing so would need approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation, since Harlem Avenue is a state highway.

A cul-de-sac east of the townhome driveway also posed problems. Public Works Director Edward Bailey said that in order for snowplows to be able to navigate a cul-de-sac its size would necessitate claiming the parkway and perhaps some private property.

“A cul-de-sac would be a substantial reconfiguration of that area with a big impact on public and private property there,” Bailey told trustees at their regular meeting on Jan. 17.

In addition, while the village’s manager, police chief, fire chief and public works director were making a visit to the site last October, residents of the townhomes approached them and asked them to keep access to Harlem Avenue open.

The Berkeley and Byrd residents’ plan would have forced the townhome owners to enter and leave the village from Longcommon Road via Berkeley and Byrd roads. 

“They were worried about limited access,” said Fire Chief Matthew Buckley.

Police conducted traffic counts on Berkeley Road during a week last October and found them to be very low, about 32 vehicles per day.

“The traffic volume is low and the speed is low,” said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.

Crime historically has also not been an issue in that neighborhood, Weitzel said, with fewer than five criminal incidents in the past eight years.

“We didn’t think it rose to the occasion of shutting down the street,” Weitzel said, adding that if the village does move forward with its surveillance camera program, it could place one of the cameras at the Berkeley/Harlem entrance.

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