Steamboat Springs Seemingly innocent efforts by the city of Steamboat Springs to increase sidewalk connections throughout the city have created a controversy with Old Town residents who don't want sidewalks in front of their homes.
In public meetings with city staff, residents on Pine and 12th streets have expressed concerns about proposed sidewalks, including that they would require the removal of old trees and hurt the character of Old Town.
The sidewalk project was a hot topic at the last two Steamboat Springs City Council meetings and prompted significant public comment and council deliberation. Old Town residents expressed concerns that they have been left out of the process, and city officials stress that the sidewalk proposal is in its infancy.
"We are in preliminary design," Public Works Director Jim Weber said. "We had to get at least to that point before we could meet with the property owners."
The design work is being guided by the city's master plan for sidewalks, which proposes uniform sidewalks throughout the city. Some Old Town residents are calling for the sidewalks to be individually tailored to different neighborhoods. That idea has received support from some City Council members, but it could be costly.
"It's about examining how you're spending your money and making sure you have some consistency for the community," said City Manager Alan Lanning, who has noted that it would be expensive to alter sidewalk designs for different neighborhoods.
At last week's City Council meeting, Old Town residents commented on a City Council moratorium on the demolition of structures deemed historic while a citizens committee reviews the city's historic preservation ordinance. The residents said it was hypocritical for the city to pass that moratorium in the name of community character and then propose formulaic sidewalks.
"There is no way that a one-size-fits-all approach to sidewalks fits the character of every neighborhood of Steamboat Springs," Old Town resident Sarah Catherman said.
Others expressed a distaste for potentially having to maintain sidewalks in front of
"It's going to put a tremendous burden on people - including people like us who can't do it ourselves anymore," said Barb DeVries, who lives in a 98-year-old house on Pine Street. DeVries said she and her husband are retired and living on fixed incomes.
Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said it's ironic the sidewalk proposal has caused so much controversy. She said the sidewalk master plan was developed because there was a community consensus that more sidewalks are needed in Steamboat.
"This is your classic example of 'no good deed goes unpunished,'" Councilman Ken Brenner told the crowd at Centennial Hall at last week's City Council meeting.
In the end, city officials say some sort of compromise is likely, if the sidewalks are built at all.
"I just think people are well ahead of the curve here," Lanning said. "I think what we should do is design every potential sidewalk in town according to the master plan. That doesn't mean they'll get built."
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