City Commission Approves Amendment to Public Sidewalk Installation

City Commission Approves Amendment to Public Sidewalk Installation

In Monday's City Commission Meeting, Commissioners deliberated on the approval of an amendment to Section 36-74 (a)(3)b. of the Subdivision Regulations, specifically addressing the installation of public sidewalks along perimeter streets.

The background of this consideration dates back to a text amendment approved in 2016, which outlined the requirements for subdivisions abutting direct access perimeter streets. This included mandates for public street access points, emergency access, and additional means of access based on Planning Commission determinations supported by technical analysis.

The Subdivision Regulations detail specific street requirements, emphasizing the safe and convenient movement of traffic, access for emergency vehicles, and adherence to applicable standards. Notably, recent Development Agreements were approved for three subdivisions, allowing interim street conditions on North Ohio Street and South 9th Street while necessitating the construction of public sidewalks.

The request for a text amendment to Section 36-74 (a)(3)b. comes from Jeff Maes of ComPro Realty, representing co-applicant Mark Augustine. The proposal aims to grant the City Commission discretion in deciding whether public sidewalks must be installed immediately or can be deferred through development agreements, particularly in cases where existing abutting streets meet interim street standards but lack public sidewalks.

The proposed amendment raises a policy question about the mandatory inclusion of public sidewalks in subdivisions developed along rural-type sections of arterial or collector streets without curb and gutter. The current Subdivision Regulations do not allow the Planning or City Commission to waive or defer the sidewalk requirement, a limitation the amendment seeks to address.

One frequent argument for deferral or waiver is the concern of building a "sidewalk to nowhere." However, the city's commitment to addressing sidewalk gaps is evident through an annual budget of $150,000 for this purpose. The Public Works Department uses a decision matrix prioritizing locations near schools, parks, bus stops, and well-trodden paths to allocate funding for sidewalk projects.

Following a public hearing on December 5, 2023, the Planning Commission voted (4-1) to recommend the approval of the text amendment, granting the City Commission the authority to defer the construction of public sidewalks along perimeter streets meeting the interim street standard. The subsequent approval of Ordinance 23-11911 with amendments by legal counsel was unanimous at 5-0.

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