If Upper Arlington City Council approves an ordinance introduced Feb. 27, local homeowners and developers will have a little wiggle room when it comes to installing required sidewalks on their property.

If Upper Arlington City Council approves an ordinance introduced Feb. 27, local homeowners and developers will have a little wiggle room when it comes to installing required sidewalks on their property.

City staff proposed an amendment to the sidewalk construction code that would allow for waivers of sidewalk construction under specific conditions. Money that would have paid for sidewalk construction would go instead into the city's general fund, where it would be earmarked for installation, replacement or maintenance of sidewalks in the public right of way.

City attorney Jeanine Hummer explained to council that the request stems from a situation last fall, in which the developer of a new home on Lane Road realized that there wasn't enough right of way to build a section of sidewalk to city's code required of him.

Although the developer and his client dedicated more land for the public right of way to deal with the problem, the situation only got worse. It turned out a high-pressure Columbia Gas main was in the way, and it would have had to be relocated before any work on the easement could begin, Hummer said.

As it stands, Upper Arlington's code has no way to deal with such a situation, but the proposed changes would allow for exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Under the proposed change, the city manager may authorize a sidewalk waiver if there is a threat to public health, safety or welfare, or if the property owner establishes that the required sidewalk would result in undue hardship. In return, the owner agrees to remit the cost of the sidewalk installation to support future city sidewalk construction.

"Because adding sidewalks in an existing, mature neighborhood can be challenging, some flexibility is essential," Hummer stated in her staff report. "Creating a waiver process enables the city to evaluate real-world complications and make decisions based on optimizing resources while enhancing connectivity."

At the same time, owners would still pay their fair share toward community connectivity, while enabling the city to put those dollars where they would allow the greatest benefit, Hummer wrote.

"In other words, at times the money to build a sidewalk may be better spent on future city arterial/connector sidewalk projects rather than on piecemeal, isolated segments of sidewalk on residential streets that will, in all probability, lack functional sidewalks for many decades to come."

Council will hear the second reading of the ordinance at its March 12 meeting.