Even with road reconstruction pushed back a year, parking and sidewalks are hot topics at input session
Although reconstruction of Main Street in the Village of Belgium is years off, it is a topic of considerable concern.
Village residents want to keep parking on both sides of Main Street and for sidewalks to remain five feet in width once construction of the road is complete.
That could be a problem, according to Gremmer & Associates, the design consultant for the project.
More than 50 residents were told on Monday during the first of three public information meetings on the project that in order to allow for parking on both sides of the street, sidewalks would have to be expanded to include a 3-1/2 foot green terrace in addition to the existing five-foot sidewalk.
“Eliminating parking on one side of the road would allow for a wider grass terrace and more room for trees,” Tom Lanser, project manager for Gremmer & Associates, said.
Additionally, state law requires road reconstruction projects to include bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.
Preliminary design plans call for eliminating parking on the north side of Main Street from approximately the western village limits to Elevator Lane and from Oak Street to Highway LL.
Parking would remain on both sides of the street between Elevator Lane and Oak Street.
Village President Rich Howells said it’s important to keep parking on both sides of the street in some areas because of the high volume of vehicles at events like Luxembourg Fest.
Some residents questioned the need for expanding sidewalks, which village officials say would help tie in the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, Harrington Beach State Park and other tourist opportunities.
“This is just one of the options being discussed,” Village President Rich Howells said, adding residents will only be required to shovel the first five feet of sidewalk if expanded.
“People say they love bike lanes, but don’t let their kids on the street because of semi trucks and other safety hazards. This would allow for more people to use the sidewalk.”
Lanser said existing trees on Main Street will have to be removed because they will likely die shortly after the project is finished due to stress.
Residents balked at the idea, saying the loss of shade will be a detriment.
“The reality is there are trees in the existing terrace that are going to have to be cut down regardless,” Lanser said. “We’ve been in places where people have wanted their trees to stay and we designed around them, but a few years later they die anyway.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the beast.”
Howells added the village would plant more trees when construction is complete.
Lanser confirmed the village’s desire to start construction in 2017 was unlikely, saying 2018 was the more likely scenario.
“The railroad needs about two years to coordinate between preliminary and final design plans,” Lanser said.
Potential historic properties on Main Street may also delay the project, he added, noting three sites have been earmarked for consideration.
Temporary easements will also have to be acquired from property owners for regrading sidewalks, which can take up to a year, Lanser said.
Another point of contention came from residents who don’t see a need for the village to bury utility lines, which would be a separate project.
“We are a rural community,” a resident said. “We have tractors that go to the canning factory. I don’t understand it.”
Howells said the reasoning is twofold: safety and thinking about the future of the village.
“If there was a fire in the middle of Lakeside Foods, for example, and one of the responding communities send a ladder truck, where are they going to put it?” Howells asked.
“We’re also working very hard on tourism. We have nothing in Belgium. The Luxembourg Cultural Center is about it. If you don’t move forward, you’re going to shrivel up and go away.
“Since day one I’ve said we need to move forward but we need to maintain our heritage.”
Lanser estimated design plans are about 15% complete and another public information meeting would be held later this year when 60% of design work is complete.
At that point, utility companies like We Energies can start logistical work on what it would cost to bury utility lines.
“Once they’re under the ground, they’re there forever,” Howells said.
Lanser and Howells stressed the village is looking for comments from residents on design plans.
“We want to hear what the residents want,” Lanser said. “We don’t want anyone walking away thinking anything is being jammed down their throat.”
Comments should be submitted by Monday, April 6, officials said.