Sidewalk Law Continues to Be Discussed - The Missourian: News

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Sidewalk Law Continues to Be Discussed

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Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 12:45 pm | Updated: 7:19 pm, Sat Jun 22, 2013.

City officials may consider population density of subdivisions, or proximity to public services to determine if sidewalks should be installed at new developments.

Discussion of a city sidewalk ordinance was taken up again Monday night by the parks, building, development and public service committee.

Alderman Dustin Bailey said in the “spirit of compromise” a proposed sidewalk ordinance could be amended to better reflect the needs of that mode of transportation throughout the city.

“Maybe they don’t need to be on cul-de-sacs,” he said.

Bailey added that some developments that have little traffic or very few homes also may not require sidewalks.

However, he suggested that streets that have multiple housing unites, including those with apartments, should have sidewalks to provide safety for pedestrians.

City Attorney Tim Melenbrink said he will look into other sidewalk requirements, including that of Franklin County which includes the phrase “density of dwellings” when determining if sidewalks are required to be installed by builders.

Another determination to installing sidewalks used by other governmental entities, Melenbrink said, is the proximity of residences to public services, such as schools or parks.

He noted that some entities require sidewalks if a development is within one-half mile of some public services.

The ordinance was written by 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.

Included in the law are criteria that a development must meet so they would not be required to build a sidewalk. Instead, the developer would chip into a fund earmarked for sidewalks within the city.

Aldermen agreed to discuss the proposed ordinance, and possibly amend it, in a city committee.

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.

Local developers have argued that requiring sidewalks would drive up home costs and place a burden on many builders who already are struggling.

Alderman Jim Albrecht argued that Union has grown quickly compared to communities like Washington during the past decade because there are not stringent building codes here, such as sidewalk requirements.

Current Funding

Monday night, aldermen noted that if a sidewalk law is implemented the city should step up its efforts to repair and replace damaged sidewalks.

“If we pass anything like this, I think the city needs to buck up,” said Alderman Bob Schmuke.

Bailey agreed, noting that the “current funding mechanism is not enough.”

City Administrator Russell Rost said the city’s sidewalk maintenance program began just a few years ago after complaints of the sidewalks on Oak Street.

After those were repaired, the city spent about $40,000 annually to repair sidewalks and fill in gaps between sidewalks.

Rost added that there had been a time period, about 20 years, in which the city did not properly maintain sidewalks.

“We always want to have a maintenance program,” he said. “Eventually we will fill in the gaps and take care of those in disrepair.”

According to Rost, once the city catches up on repairs to sidewalks, sidewalk funds will be available for sidewalks in other areas of the city.

“I’m pretty proud of what we accomplished,” said Mayor Mike Livengood.

Sidewalk Criteria

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.

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