Sidewalks top development forum

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— Faced with expensive requests from the city to build sidewalks around their new projects, developers said Tuesday they want to be convinced the paths will lead somewhere.

Sidewalks were the hot topic at Tuesday's Community Development Forum. About a dozen city staffers and community members met for the second time to work through the Community Development Code.

In July, a group of local developers came before the City Council to lodge complaints about the city's planning process and express frustrations with the code. The council agreed to start holding meetings to look at the code and make revisions.

At Tuesday's meeting, architect Jan Kaminski said he has heard complaints from developers who were required to build sidewalks on their developed properties even though no sidewalks existed on either side.

Kaminski said it would be easier to convince developers to build sidewalks if they could see a city plan. In that plan, Kaminski said it would be important to show secondary sidewalks and to prioritize them.

"Can we try to speed that up? It is the kind of vehicle that turns the thought around from sidewalks to nowhere to sidewalks to somewhere," Kaminski said.

City staffers said they would come up with a plan that shows were sidewalks would go and prioritize them. The city doesn't have a master plan for sidewalks, but staff said it could be done. A master plan is something they already were looking at doing after the completion of the Community Area Plan update.

"It seems like we agree the city needs to draft a sidewalk plan, take a photo of what is there, what the missing pieces are and what pieces need to be done now or later," City Manager Paul Hughes said.

Hughes pointed to two recent development plans, the renovation of Sundance Plaza and the River Place co-housing project, where sidewalks where a major grappling point.

City Council went against staff's recommendation in both plans and allowed the Sundance developers to pay money in lieu of putting sidewalks on one side of the development and said the River Place developers did not have to build a sidewalk directly adjacent to U.S. Highway 40.

"What is your heartburn with sidewalks," Hughes asked the group.

Mike Campbell, a landscape architect, said his clients do resent the money they have to spend on sidewalks, but they also see sidewalks as one more requirement that eats up their land. The land area already has decreased because of utility easements and rights of way; "after sidewalks, there's nothing left," he said.

Campbell asked the city to have more flexibility when dealing with sidewalks and putting them over rights of way and utility easements.

City Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Chris Wilson said the community has been clear on the importance it places on sidewalks.

"We see on surveys, hear from people at public meetings that they want more sidewalks, and they want more pedestrian connections," Wilson said. "That is what the vision of the community has been."

Community Development Forums will be held on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. They are scheduled for Sept. 16, Oct. 7, Oct. 21, Nov. 4 and Dec. 2.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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