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Janesville City Council to rehash sidewalk ordinance

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Frank Schultz
March 26, 2013

— With the seven-year sidewalk plan approved for a second time by the Janesville City Council on Monday, Councilman Russ Steeber also asked to discuss a 2006 ordinance requiring sidewalks on both sides of the street in new subdivisions.

Steeber made the request because he said he doesn’t believe the ordinance fits all situations.

The issue will be on the Monday, April 8, agenda.

Monday’s sidewalk votes appeared to give east-side residents a better shake when it came to sidewalks.

The 2008 sidewalk plan was studied again after a group of residents formed in 2012 in protest. The plan was created to improve safety and connect areas of the city for pedestrians.

Implementation, though, was delayed several years because of the economy, and the delay also meant new councils.

In 2012, a resident group formed protesting the seven-year plan, and the council appointed a sidewalk committee to review it.

The committee reviewed about 40 miles of planned walk on the remaining sidewalk plan and unanimously agreed that about half of the sidewalk remain on the plan.

It recommended that about 16 miles be removed and that about .3 miles be deferred.

It could not reach consensus on three miles.

The committee arrived at its conclusions by creating criteria. Any sidewalk garnering 35 or more points was to be built.

The council Monday approved all of the unanimous recommendations from the committee.

Councilwoman Deb Dongarra-Adams warned before the voting that she would vote against all sidewalk, as she has done in the past. Councilman DuWayne Severson voted only for the sidewalk that came to the council with unanimous recommendations.

Matt Kealy was the only council member who, on every vote, supported the criteria created by the committee.

In most areas of the city, the council vote was 5 to 2 to build sidewalk that met the criteria of 35 even if the sidewalk committee had not reached consensus. Voting “no” were Severson and Dongarra-Adams.

On the east side, though, councilmen Sam Liebert and Jim Farrell ignored the criteria and voted against building sidewalk on which the committee could not reach consensus but ranked 35 or higher.

That meant that sections of Wuthering Hills Drive that qualified, for example, would not be built. Steeber had asked the council consider that stretch as a whole, hoping the council would vote to install sidewalk on the entire length. A large majority of the sidewalk committee believed that streets should have sidewalks on both sides rather than just the current one side.

Some residents, in fact, built sidewalks when they were originally ordered to build them along Wuthering Hills Drive last year before the program was halted. Now there will be gaps, Steeber warned.

Farrell said he couldn’t support many of the proposed sidewalks on the east side because they were “just barely over the threshold, extremely borderline. I’ve been in that area many times this year and last year … and I don’t feel they’re necessary,” he said.

Steeber reminded Farrell the council just approved large segments of sidewalk in other sections of the city and at least a quarter of them were 40 points and below.

“To say it’s ‘borderline’ is more of a fairness issue” to people on the west side, the northeast side and the southwest side, Steeber said.

Steeber said the east-side sidewalks had proved the most contentious for the committee because several committee members either lived there or had other personal ties.

Council members also ignored the criteria and the committee’s recommendations when they voted six to one not to build sidewalk along River Road across from Cedar Crest.

Only Kealy voted to support the committee recommendation.

The council also voted to give residents living on streets designated as collector streets five years to install sidewalk. It had already agreed to give 10 years to residents living along streets designated as local streets.



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