Sidewalks are a controversial topic. Some residents want more; some don’t. Sometimes-heated exchanges have made it clear that Takoma Park could use a Policy for Sidewalk Requests and Installation, which the city council will consider at its meeting Monday evening, March 12, 2012.
The proposed policy, captured in a draft resolution, is the product of an extended discussions that have involved council members (former and present), city staff, and community members. It sets rules for a) initiating evaluation of a new sidewalk, b) discussion of the request, and c) feedback on either the design or on the sidewalk itself. (The scope of that last point is the unclear to me and is the subject of one of my comments.) Overall, the policy represents hard-won compromise.
I have several comments. I plan to bring them to the council meeting and I’ll share them now. I’d also very much like to hear residents’ thoughts. My first three (of four) comments are technical, aimed at making policy wording more precise. My fourth comment addresses a gap: The policy calls for up to three surveys of households. Is the final survey a referendum on design or on the sidewalk itself?
- First bullet, (2)(b): It would help to specify *which* residents may request a survey and how many residents much sign on to the request. I suggest a modification, “a minimum of two household in an affected area request that the City perform a survey of the households in the affected area and 50% of the responders provide a yes vote.”
- A point says, “(7) The standard width of new sidewalk will be five feet.” I suggest text, “(7) The width of new sidewalk shall be at least the minimum required for ADA compliance. It shall meet or exceed the current transportation industry width guidelines, 5 feet wide (1525 mm) with a planting strip of 2 feet (610 mm) on local streets and in residential and commercial areas as of March 2012, where possible.” [See http://www.access-board.gov/prowac/guide/PROWGuide.htm#3_2_1]
- The next-to-last bullet could be more precise. I’d modify it to say “If at least 50% of the responses…”
- That bullet doesn’t say what happens if the city doesn’t receive at least 50% positive responses. Is that considered a design rejection or a sidewalk rejection?
- If we’ll consider that a design rejection, then added text would be in order, say “In the event fewer than 50% of responses are positive, the City will revise the design to account for respondents’ concerns and survey the households on the side of the street where the proposed sidewalk is to be located on the revised design.”
- If we’ll consider that to be sidewalk rejection, then it would be prudent to survey those “households on the side of the street where the proposed sidewalk is to be located” before getting to this point. But do we want policy that would ignore the rest of the affected area?
On one other point: Council consensus, the outcome of discussion, was to include only household residents and not property owners when surveys are called for.
Now please do share your own views on the draft sidewalk policy, via blog comments, private communications, or at Monday evening’s council meeting. Thanks!