A Stoughton neighborhood that features century-old old trees and many private gardens will not have to face the prospect of sidewalks interrupting its lush vegetation.
The Common Council voted 7-4 on Oct. 8 to remove funding for the construction of sidewalks in the city’s Sarah E. Turner neighborhood from the city’s proposed capital improvement plan for next year.
City policy calls for sidewalks to be added to both sides of all streets when they are reconstructed. Next year, Prospect Street, Grant Street and Sherman Avenue all are scheduled for reconstruction, and including sidewalks in the project would have required the removal of trees and gardens close to the road.
Alds. Ben Heili (Dist. 4), Regina Hirsch (D-1), Greg Jenson (D-3) and Matt Bartlett (D-4) voted against the amendment to remove the funding. Council president Tom Majewski (D-3) was absent.
The Sarah E. Turner neighborhood is a primarily single-family residential community located around North Page Street and features streets with either sidewalks on one side or no sidewalks at all. Eight residents from the area spoke out against having sidewalks added to the neighborhood at the council meeting, including Ald. Timothy Riley (D-1), who said he has lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years.
“This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Stoughton,” he said. “It has survived and thrived without sidewalks for 80 years or more. What this budget currently seeks to do is an assault on the very unique nature of this neighborhood and, frankly, of the constituents who live there.”
Riley explained that the area attracts very little vehicular traffic and is not a common pathway for travelers. He also raised concerns over the $61,604 cost of the sidewalks, with $25,390 for Prospect Street, $22,114 for Grant Street and $14,100 for Sherman Avenue, half of which would be paid directly by residents of the neighborhood.
Alds. Hirsch and Jenson expressed support for leaving the neighborhood’s yards unaffected by the road work, but said the debate should be held as construction projects come up, rather than in the approval of the capital improvement plan.
A CIP is a planning document that provides a guideline to plan one-time projects such as new buildings, roads, parks and vehicle purchases. The council is not required to adhere to it when constructing its budget or borrowing.
After the 7-4 vote removed the sidewalk funding, the council unanimously approved the amended capital improvement plan, which calls for spending $30 million over the next five years, including $5.4 million next year.