Upper Arlington News

Council OKs sidewalks along part of Berkshire Rd.

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Upper Arlington City Council this week approved plans to move forward with the construction of sidewalks along a portion of Berkshire Road.

Following a citizen-led petition drive, council unanimously gave the go-ahead Sept. 23 for sidewalks to be installed on both sides of Berkshire from Brandon Road to Beaumont Road.

The project will be funded through special assessments to property owners living along that portion of Berkshire.

According to a city staff report, it's estimated those costs will be $44.29 per foot of land fronting their properties.

Upper Arlington Mayor and Council President Don Leach said the city is simply upholding its policy for sidewalk projects brought on by citizen initiatives.

"There's somewhat of a cumbersome process, but there is a city-established process," he said.

Upper Arlington's code allows for sidewalks to be built if citizens collect signatures indicating support for such a project from people who own at least 60 percent of the front footage in the designated area.

Last March, a similar citizen-led initiative to construct sidewalks on Berkshire from Northwest Boulevard to North Star Drive stalled after petitioners failed to secure signatures from at least 60 percent of people who owned front footage in the area.

In August, however, citizens living on Berkshire between Brandon and Beaumont roads provided enough petitions to launch a smaller sidewalk project for their portion of the neighborhood.

Among the project's supporters are Cristina Gulacy-Worrel and John Leff.

On Monday, both said the sidewalk project would improve pedestrian safety in the area.

"I can't let my kids ride (bicycles) on the street ... because someone's going to get hit," Gulacy-Worrel said.

The city of Upper Arlington also was one of the petitioners for the project.

Over the past year, city officials have supported calls for sidewalks along Berkshire because of its proximity to the Lane Avenue Community Entertainment District (CED), and because the project would yield sidewalks for Cardiff Woods Park.

In supporting the petition, the city went against its word to let residents living on Berkshire decide the matter, according to Ronald Huprich, who opposes building the sidewalks.

"The original commitment by city representatives ... was this process should be decided by city residents and the city was not going to intervene," Huprich said. "My, how things have changed."

Huprich also said residents' costs could rise as the city selects a contractor for project.

City Attorney Jeanine Amid Hummer agreed, but noted that city code allows for petitioners to pull their support of the project if actual costs exceed estimates by 15 percent or more.

Huprich's comments drew a heated response from Gulacy-Worrel, who said she's concerned about the safety of her three children and would consider moving out of Upper Arlington if sidewalks can't be built in her neighborhood.

"At this point, it's contentious," she said. "What are you going to do if my kid gets hurt, Ron? I'm starting to get upset that people aren't thinking about lives."

Following council's action Monday, the sidewalk project from Brandon to Beaumont is expected to be included in plans to reconstruct of Berkshire Road.

The city engineer's office has estimated the cost of a total reconstruction of Berkshire would be $3 million. That work is expected to take place next year and be completed by Thanksgiving 2014.

Berkshire residents living between Brandon and Beaumont will have the option of paying off their portions of the sidewalk project in one lump sum or paying a fee each year for up to 10 years.

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