The city planning and zoning commission Monday agreed to a new ordinance that would require developers install sidewalks during most new construction.
The proposed law also states that developers could chip into a sidewalk fund if the criteria are met, then the developers would be required to pay half of the cost of a new sidewalk into a special fund to be used for sidewalks in the city.
Not all of the planning and zoning members were on board with the proposal, however all but Howard Conard voted in favor of the ordinance to be reviewed by the Union Board of Aldermen.
Alderman Dustin Bailey has said a goal of the new sidewalk ordinance is to include walkways into infrastructure plans similar to water, sewer and street requirements. He added that safety is a primary factor for his support of the law.
“The city has taken a strong stance on safety and sidewalks,” he said.
Bailey added that data from the city’s comprehensive plan indicates that residents want more sidewalks.
“It bolsters a network that we will have for the next 100 years,” said Bailey. “The citizens have asked for it, and I feel that safety demands this.”
The proposed sidewalk law is intended to promote pedestrian travel, which was recommended in the city’s comprehensive plan adopted last year.
“If you don’t have a car, you are almost not welcome to transport yourself in a new development,” he added.
Conard noted that the safety of sidewalks is more needed on larger streets, not in subdivisions.
“If you want to address (safety) put them on larger streets,” he said.
Conard further added that mandating sidewalks would affect developers.
“This is adding a lot of extra costs for builders,” he said.
Rich Purschke said some builders have expressed their disapproval of the proposal.
“I have had contractors jump me about that,” Purschke said. “They said they don’t think they should pay for sidewalks, or they will move somewhere else.”
Bailey stated that sidewalks would add to property values, and resale value. Much of that cost would be passed onto home buyers, he added.
“The city provides a lot of infrastructure that is not required to survive,” Bailey said. “This provides safety, quality of life and increased property values.”
Conard noted that the city is unable to maintain all of its sidewalks now.
“In the end people say they want sidewalks, but if you ask them if they would pay to maintain them, they would say, ‘No,’ ” Conard said.
The determination to not build sidewalks would be made by the board of aldermen, and would include factors based on pedestrian traffic generators, existence of sidewalk network, density of development, amount of anticipated pedestrian traffic, cost of constructing, terrain that is unfeasible and impact to trees/ground cover/natural areas, officials said.
The required amount for the special fund would be determined by the city engineer. The fund would give a boost to the maintenance of sidewalks.
It is estimated that sidewalk installations could cost developers between $2,000 and $3,000 per lot.
City officials said the planning and zoning commission agreed to place the moratorium between 2001 and 2003 while the St. Andrews subdivision was being constructed.
In July 2011, Bailey asked that the moratorium that has been in place for at least nine years be lifted.
Since that time, developers did not have to construct sidewalks. If the moratorium is lifted, it would only apply to new developments.
City Administrator Russell Rost noted that the ordinance discussed Monday night will make the removal of the moratorium “more palpable.”
If the moratorium is lifted, developers would be mandated to construct sidewalks even if they meet criteria to opt out.
“This ordinance already exists,” said Bailey. “It has taken 10 years to get it fixed.”