The final construction budget to build a 186-foot stretch of sidewalk near King Elementary School has been given approval by the Ann Arbor city council. The sidewalk will fill in a gap from the northeast corner of Penberton Court and Waldenwood northward, connecting to a path leading the rest of the way to the school.
Only a small amount of the originally approved $10,000 design budget was spent. So, in order cover the $16,000 construction cost, an additional $6,818 of general fund money was approved by the council. Action came at the council’s Jan. 21, 2014 meeting.
At the same meeting, the council took the first of four steps in the process to impose a special assessment on property owners for a sidewalk on the east side of Pontiac Trail, between Skydale and Dhu Varren Road.
The sidewalk project near King Elementary has a long history. That history includes advocacy by one resident of the neighborhood and opposition by the immediately adjacent property owners. A letter from the van Nieuwstadts and Weismans, along whose property the sidewalk would be constructed, questions whether the current crosswalk configuration – which is mid-block – poses a real safety hazard for school children. The letter also questions whether having children cross at a four-way stop – which sidewalk construction would facilitate – would actually be any safer than the mid-block location. The letter also notes that the street adjacent to the planned sidewalk was just repaved last summer.
By way of background, at its Aug. 8, 2013 meeting, the city council had approved a $10,000 design budget for the project.
In its form, that resolution was similar to other sidewalk design budgets the council approved last year. [For example, the council approved similar design budgets for a sidewalk on Barton Drive at its July 15, 2013 meeting, a sidewalk on Newport Road at its Jan. 22, 2013 meeting, and for a sidewalk on Scio Church Road at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting.]
However, the sidewalk gap near King Elementary School includes a history of advocacy by nearby resident and former Ann Arbor Public Schools board member Kathy Griswold dating back to 2009.
For students crossing Waldenwood from the west to attend school, the new segment of sidewalk would allow them to make the crossing at the intersection, where there is a four-way stop – instead of crossing the street using the mid-block crosswalk. According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, “The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Transportation Safety Committee has agreed the use of a new crosswalk at this stop controlled location would be preferable over the existing mid-block crossing at the school entrance.”
From the fall of 2009 through the spring of 2010, Griswold addressed the council on at least nine occasions on the topic of the King Elementary School crosswalk and the related sidewalk gap. The construction of a sidewalk had been met with opposition by the immediately adjoining property owners. And the more recent feedback, reflected in the staff memo for the Jan. 21 meeting, indicates that an Oct. 3, 2013 neighborhood meeting attended by 22 people resulted in 15 feedback forms, 10 of which indicated support and 5 of which indicated opposition.
The funding of new sidewalks – as contrasted with the repair of existing sidewalks – is typically achieved at least partly through a special assessment on adjoining property owners. Sidewalk repair, but not new construction, can be paid for with the city’s sidewalk repair millage.
In the case of the Waldenwood sidewalk, it’s located to the rear of the residential properties – and the city does not typically special assess properties to finance sidewalks at the rear of a property.
In a different sidewalk-related item approved at the same Jan. 21, 2014 meeting, the council took the first of four steps in the process to impose a special assessment on property owners for a sidewalk on the east side of Pontiac Trail, between Skydale and Dhu Varren Road. That project would also construct a concrete curb and gutter northward from Skydale about 920 feet along the east side of Pontiac Trail and about 1,030 feet along the west side of Pontiac Trail. Those stretches currently don’t have a curb and gutter.
This first step directs the city administrator to prepare plans, specifications and a cost estimate. The vote on the Pontiac Trail special assessment came after a half hour of deliberations on a proposal from Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) to fund 80% of all special-assessed sidewalk projects with city funds. That failed with support only from Kunselman, Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]