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Board backs controversial plan for new sidewalks PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 31 January 2018 19:56

Officials say walkways will improve safety but residents argue they’re not needed in quiet neighborhoods

    The controversial issue of constructing sidewalks in Port Washington’s north bluff neighborhoods took a step forward Tuesday as the Board of Public Works recommended installing the walkways along several streets in the area this summer.
    The idea of placing sidewalks along Crestview Drive and Brentwood Court was of particular concern, since neighbors had protested the walkways because they don’t join up with any other sidewalks.
    “I know it’s part of the code to have sidewalks....But they don’t connect to anywhere,” Tim Osowski, 1114 Crestview Dr., reiterated Tuesday.
    Osowski reminded the board that virtually all the residents in the area have signed a petition opposing the installation of sidewalks, especially since many of the roads are not heavily traveled.
    Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven recommended the board include the sidewalks in this year’s road reconstruction project, and that it commit to installing sidewalks along Hales Trail from the bike path to Upper Lake Park.
    Doing that, he said, would not only link with the proposed walkways on Crestview and Brentwood, it would also provide a safe path for pedestrians heading to Upper Lake Park.
    “It seems to me there’s a lot of support for sidewalks on Hales Trail,” he said.
    Ald. John Sigwart made a motion to delay the sidewalk installation along Crestview, Brentwood and Hales Trail until next year, but that motion was voted down.
    “Do you really want to have two years there with everything torn up?” board chairman Craig Czarnecki asked, noting the cost of the work could also increase in the next year.
    He also expressed concern about approving the Hales Trail sidewalk now, saying he didn’t want to “spring it” on the neighbors.
    But because the project wouldn’t entail ripping up the roadway, Sigwart said, it wouldn’t be disruptive.
    “I don’t know how much sense it would make to do it in two years,” board member Eric Ryer said. “If you’re going to do it, just do it.”
    It would take time to design the Hales Trail work, Vanden Noven said, so it would have to be bid separately from the rest of the street work.
    Ald. Mike Gasper, a member of the board, said it wouldn’t really matter if the Hales Trail sidewalk were delayed until next year. The sidewalks for this year’s project probably won’t be open until late summer, he said, and the Hales Trail walkway could be done in spring.
     Sigwart’s motion died by a 5-1 vote.
    Gasper then made a motion to have the city pay for the sidewalk installation instead of assessing the property owners for the work.
    “I know there’s a matter of fairness,” he said. “But this would make it a little more palatable for people.”
    But other committee members noted residents elsewhere have paid for the construction of sidewalks in front of their homes.
    “If I voted for this, all my bedroom windows would be shot out,” Sigwart said, noting sidewalks were installed in his neighborhood several years ago even after residents protested.
    If the city were to pay for the walkways, Vanden Noven said, it would be roundly criticized for not being fair “especially in this instance where higher income neighborhoods would receive the benefit while lower income neighborhoods have not.”
    The assessments for the sidewalk are expected to be less than $500 annually for five years for the Crestview and Brentwood areas, he added.
    Gasper’s motion was defeated, 4-2.
    He then made a motion not to install sidewalks on any cul de sac, saying this is common practice in many communities, especially if there are few houses on the road. This motion would have, in effect, eliminated the sidewalk on Brentwood Court.
    “To remove sidewalk just because it’s a cul de sac doesn’t make any sense,” board member Jason Wittek said. “Access is for everybody, not just residents of that street.”
    After that motion failed, 5-1, a motion to approve the street project with sidewalks on Crestview and Brentwood was approved 5-1, with Sigwart opposing it.
    The Common Council will consider the board’s recommendation when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.
    Vanden Noven said he plans to put the street projects out for bid in mid-February.
    Although the board didn’t address the Hales Trail sidewalk in its motion, Vanden Noven said he will bring the matter back for consideration with the 2019 street projects.
    “The message I got is we should plan on sidewalk construction on Hales Trail in 2019,” he said, saying that will provide enough time to plan the project.Daily Press