By Kellen Olshefski

Correspondent

The City of Elkhorn Common Council voted unanimously last week in favor of continuing the sidewalk extension project along West Lawn and Edgewood avenues.

Below is a recap of what happened at the Municipal Services and Utilities Committee meeting that led to the council revisiting the issue.

The City of Elkhorn Municipal Services and Utilities Committee opted on April 23 in favor of bringing the sidewalk extension project along West Lawn and Edgewood avenues back to the full council for another vote.

The Common Council originally unanimously approved the installation of sidewalks on both sides of both streets for safety purposes at its March 5 meeting.

However, many residents have made it clear recently that they simply don’t want sidewalks.

According to Department of Public Works Operations Manager Matt Lindstrom, the sidewalks were proposed as part of the 2018 streets project. He said that putting in sidewalks along these streets, it would disturb some residents’ landscaping areas, retaining walls, carriage walk lighting systems, fencing, basketball hoops and more. He also noted it would increase some driveway slopes along the streets.

On the positive side, Lindstrom said it would continue connectivity within the city, something that is in line with the city’s sidewalks program adopted in 2012 and recently reviewed by councilmembers. Lindstrom also said it would address some safety concerns.

Lindstrom said residents have voiced concerns about the disturbance to their property, as well as the proximity of the sidewalks to their homes.

City Administrator Sam Tapson said while he’s not advocating either way for the project, he believes that as the city recently reaffirmed its commitment to the sidewalks program, it needs to either decide to do the project, or if it’s uncomfortable with the program as it is, review the policy again or get rid of it.

Tapson further noted that maybe the city needs to determine the “why and what for” exceptions, setting standards for what qualifies.

“I think you can come up with them. It’ll take some time, but at least then you’ll have something that you can hang your hat on when you pull the trigger on a project,” he said. “These are the determining factors.”

Tapson further noted that one of the problems that arise with these sort of “rural” subdivisions, meaning they don’t have sidewalks, the right of way belongs to the city and there is the opportunity to plant in it, install lighting and more, one that’s often taken.

“While they’re privately installed, they’re on the city’s property,” he said. “That’s another problem you sort of need to confront. Nobody wants to be told they need to take out their landscaping. I get that. All of these things need to be rolled into the process to determine whether it’s worth that sort of damage to property or inconvenience or cost to property owners.”

Several homeowners from along the two streets were in attendance at Monday’s meeting, citing various reasons against the proposed sidewalks.

Richard Gilkey, who lives on Westlawn Avenue, noted that he’s lived on the street for 50 years and never once has there been a need for sidewalks or has he felt children were in danger. His biggest concern came from the parents of the children at the nearby bus stop speeding along that stretch of road. Gilkey also noted he’s had lighting installed on his property for 50 years, and it’s never been a concern until now.

Jeff Spotz agreed with Gilkey regarding the lack of safety concerns and speeding along the stretch. Spotz also said that he’s concerned with damage to his property and landscaping. He noted that in the time he’s lived on the corner of Second and Edgewood avenues, about seven years, this would mark the third time a major project has been undertaken outside of his home in about the past three years.

Spotz noted that a recent electric utility project placed a junction box next to a driveway that with the sidewalk project likely will have to be moved again.

Spotz said he understood the want for connectivity, but he didn’t see it as a reasonable need.

Ultimately, committee members took residents’ concerns to heart and opted to take the project back to the council for another vote.

Coverage from the April 30 meeting – in which the council voted – can be found in the May 3 Elkhorn Independent.

 
 

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