A local developer said if a proposed sidewalk ordinance is approved, it will drive out builders and would limit growth within the city.
Tony Bequette, owner of Bequette Construction, Monday night told aldermen that the ordinance requiring sidewalks would create an increase in housing costs as well as assessments.
“As a developer, I take exception,” he said. “It seems to me that developers will fund projects for the city.”
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.
Planning and zoning members agreed to the ordinance last month so aldermen could further discuss the issue.
A city committee will continue to discuss the proposed ordinance.
Bequette noted that sidewalks should not be required within subdivisions — which only have local traffic — but instead sidewalks should be located along collector streets.
He added that the “market should decide” where sidewalks would be when people “gravitate to buy lots in places where there are sidewalks.”
Bequette further added that the city can’t afford to fix sidewalks it has now.
“You can’t use me as a developer to pay for it,” he said.
“We grew faster than Washington for a reason,” Bequette said, “there are ordinances like this in Washington.”
Mayor Mike Livengood said the city spends about $40,000 to pay for sidewalk repairs each year.
“Sidewalks are of vital importance to the community,” he said.
Livengood noted that sidewalks are built to much better standards than sidewalks the city is now repairing.
Bequette suggested that residents be asked to pay for sidewalks.
“If sidewalks are that important let’s assess them,” he said. “I think they will feel like I do.”
Alderman Vicki Hoper asked Bequette why he didn’t come to the planning and zoning meeting when the proposed ordinance was discussed.
That board has discussed a sidewalk ordinance for more than six months, Alderman Dustin Bailey added.
“Planning and zoning spent all of this time and you didn’t go to those meetings, you come here” said Hooper.
Bequette argued that the final decision on the ordinance would be made by aldermen.
“They addressed every concern six months ago,” said Bailey. “P and Z has done what the board asked of them.”
While the planning board did agree to pass the discussion onto aldermen, zoning board member Howard Conard voted against recommending the board discuss the issue.
Conard is an employee of Bequette, but other board members questioned the need for the law.
Bailey stated that the 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 requires a lot of infrastructure that is not necessary for survival, but safety,” he said.
Bailey said the city has set a precedent by seeking federal funds to build new sidewalks.
“If we say we want sidewalks, we should be consistent across the board,” he said. “Citizens will pay either way. The up-front cost is cheaper.”
‘Somebody explain to me, if I’m in a wheelchair, how can I get to a collector (street) safeky without a sidewalk?” Bailey asked.
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.
Alderman Dale Schmuke said the original sidewalk ordinance had been in place less than a year when the moritorium was put into place.
“That ordinance was out in the books, but when it was put to the test it failed,” he said.
Schmuke added that sales taxes pay for water and sewer systems, and streets.
“I feel it (sidewalk ordinance) is putting a burden on the city,” he 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 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.
It is estimated that sidewalk installations could cost developers between $2,000 and $3,000 per lot.