Following a lengthy debate last month between Berkshire Road residents calling for sidewalks in their neighborhood and others who opposed the plan, Upper Arlington City Council is expected to seek a compromise.
A petition to construct sidewalks on both sides of Berkshire Road from Northwest Boulevard to North Star Road stalled after it failed to secure support from people who own at least 60 percent of the front footage in the designated area.
However, hopes for at least a portion of the project remain alive after council members indicated Monday, March 11, they would lead a city-driven initiative to permit sidewalks to be built along Berkshire Road from Northwest Boulevard to Beaumont Road.
That stretch of Berkshire is where much of the support for sidewalks exists.
Under the new proposal, sidewalks would not be built along Berkshire east of Beaumont Road, where the majority of homeowners expressed opposition to the project due to costs they would assume and the potential impact on their properties.
Both sides of the issue were aired Feb. 25 during a more than hour-long discussion of the merits and disadvantages of neighborhood sidewalks.
Now, council is expected to sign off on the alternative plan at a future meeting. A specific date wasn't set Monday, but City Attorney Jeanine Amid Hummer said the city staff would begin drafting new legislation right away.
The alternative action would allow the city engineer's office to redesign the sidewalk project and include it in a contract to be bid next winter for the reconstruction of Berkshire Road, including water lines and storm sewers.
Barring an additional change in course, the road reconstruction and sidewalk project would begin next spring. City officials said they expect it to conclude around Thanksgiving 2014.
"That section (of sidewalks) would involve ... the stretch between Northwest and Beaumont," council President Don Leach said. "That construction would take place next year because that's when that road is going to be worked on anyway. There would be some efficiencies in cost."
The total cost to residents, who would be responsible for funding the sidewalks, won't be known until after the project is redesigned.
Previously, Upper Arlington City Engineer Dave Parkinson estimated it would cost a total of $247,000 -- or $47 per foot -- to build sidewalks on both sides of the street for the entire length of Berkshire.
The total reconstruction of Berkshire Road previously was estimated to cost about $3 million.
Rather than leading a city-driven initiative for sidewalks on a portion of Berkshire, council could have opted to let the matter die. It also could have directed Berkshire residents, from Beaumont and to the west, to generate another petition.
In the end, council members said they support plans to authorize the project, because the majority of Berkshire residents west of Beaumont already indicated they want sidewalks, and because a resident petition would be onerous and would slow down the overall reconstruction of the road.
Residents who called for sidewalks said they support the council initiative; they maintain that sidewalks in their neighborhood would enhance pedestrian safety and be a valued amenity for people wishing to walk to the nearby Lane Avenue Community Entertainment District.
"I've forever advocated for the sidewalks," said Susan Krauss, a Berkshire Road resident. "I do think it's a rare opportunity for us to merge a few different considerations.
"I don't know when 60 percent of residents in Upper Arlington agree on anything other than Ohio State football and the Fourth of July celebration," she said. "I'm not even going to harp on the safety thing because I think that's pretty apparent. I think it's over 70 percent approval if it's west of Beaumont."
Fellow Berkshire resident Bob Houser noted the city has identified the desire for sidewalks throughout neighborhoods as part of its master plan. He said increased traffic volumes have further compounded the need for them.
Additionally, he said the city should provide sidewalks to and from the CED, as well as nearby Cardiff Woods Park.
"It's something that we believe we need and we are the closest to the entertainment district," he said.
Councilman David DeCapua cautioned Berkshire residents on both sides of the debate not to allow hard feelings over the impassioned issue to linger.
"Don't let that happen," DeCapua said. "It's silly. It's ridiculous. There are real problems in the world."