There has been no decision reached on a sidewalk ordinance that some developers have adamantly opposed.
The city’s park, building, development and public service committee last week took up the discussion of the proposed code that would require home builders to install sidewalks during most new construction.
Two local developers, Tony Bequette and Ed Schmelz attended the meeting, and both stated that the ordinance would curb development in the city, and questioned the need of the ordinance.
“Why is this even an issue?” asked Shmelz. “In the last five years how many people have been hurt in a subdivision because there was not a sidewalk?”
Bequette added that Union has grown during the past decade because building codes have not been to o“burdensome” on developers. He said construction in Washington has been stagnant due to stringent codes.
“Affordable housing is where it is at,” said Bequette. “Street requirements (in Washington) are so burdensome that there hasn’t been a new development in eight years — and there won’t be another in eight years.”
He further added that the cost to build a sidewalk on a new lot would be passed on to home buyers, with an average cost of $4,000.
The ordinance was written by City Attorney Tim Melenbrink at the direction of the city’s planning and zoning board.
That board had discussed the ordinance for several months before recommending the board of aldermen make a decision on the proposed law.
Last week, aldermen agreed to discuss the issue in committee but did not come to a decision Monday.
“Obviously this board is very split,” said Alderman Bob Schmuke.
“We are skirting around it, but funding is a problem,” added Alderman David Pope. “Who is going to pay for it?”
Alderman Dustin Bailey requested last year that a moratorium on sidewalk construction be lifted.
The city’s planning and zoning commission agreed to place the moratorium while the St. Andrews subdivision was being constructed.
Since that time, developers did not have to construct sidewalks.
Bailey has maintained that lifting the moratorium, and creating new sidewalks in developments, would create a safe transportation option for Union residents.
“How do we accommodate all methods of transportation, especially for the neediest folks?” asked Bailey.
He offered an example of a mother who is walking on the street while pushing a stroller. If there is a car parked in her path, she must walk at least 12 feet into the roadway to go around the car.
“I don’t know how to get folks from new developments into town safely,” he said.
It was argued that there are few people who walk from subdivisions to stores to do their shopping.
Bailey has stated that in both the comprehensive plan, and Trailnet initiative Union residents have said they want sidewalks and trails in Union.
However, Bequette has asked if during surveys, residents were asked if they would be willing to pay for those transportation methods, including through taxes, assessments or higher home costs.
Alderman Bob Schmuke suggested that aldermen conduct an informal survey to ask residents those questions.
Alderman Jim Albrecht said 95 percent of Union residents use cars as their primary method of transportation.
He suggested that the city review each proposal to determine if sidewalks are needed in that area.
“We should take each one as it comes up,” he said.
Albrecht made a motion to continue the moratorium, but the motion died in the committee.
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 a 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.