Seven months after residents of a neighborhood with century-old trees fought to have sidewalks removed from their street reconstruction plan, a split Common Council passed an assessment that includes them on one side of the street.
It also includes funding for an addition of sidewalks on another street in that Sarah E. Turner neighborhood that some residents claimed to be unaware of.
The assessment, which passed 9-3, outlines the cost to replace curb and gutter, sidewalks, driveway aprons, carriage walks, steps, retaining walls, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water system at nine projects throughout the city, affecting 27 property owners.
Assessments range from $559 to $7,500, with half the cost of curb, gutter and sidewalks paid for by the homeowner. Some of the projects are already under construction.
Voting against were Ald. Sid Boersma (Dist. 1), Ald. Timothy Riley (D-1) and Ald. Jean Ligocki (D-2). The three said the decision should be delayed to address the concerns of residents, one of whom said during a public comment period she did not know McKinley Street would be rebuilt with sidewalks added.
But Ald. Ben Heili (D-4) noted that all homeowners who were directly affected by the sidewalk cost were notified by mail.
The city’s sidewalk policy is a frequent topic of debate, often because of the costs homeowners face. This year, that debate has also centered on whether all newly rebuilt roads should have sidewalks on both sides.
Proponents of the policy say it improves safety, particularly for children and people with disabilities. Those against say it changes the nature of existing neighborhoods.
The council deviated from that policy Jan. 28, when it decided to build sidewalks on only one side of Grant Street, in an older neighborhood. The council had voted 7-4 in October a largely symbolic move to remove all funding for sidewalks on that street from the capital improvement plan.
McKinley Street is in the same neighborhood and also scheduled to get sidewalks. Boersma and Riley told the council they had spoken with residents in the neighborhood at length and found many were unaware a sidewalk was going to be constructed there.
Boersma and Ald. Lisa Reeves (D-2) are both members of the Public Works committee, which oversees sidewalk construction projects. Reeves said she has been aware of this specific project for months.
“None of this has been a surprise to me,” Reeves said to Boersma. “There were many opportunities for you to ask questions during Public Works and comment. So I am a little wary that in the 11th hour that we are having this discussion.”
Riley said the street has a cul-de-sac and low traffic and there is no need for sidewalks and a crosswalk.
“The project, it seems silly. It is a waste of money. It is a waste of time,” Riley said “I know I’m not a city planner, but my God, there is no reason for it.”