City officials, backed by provisions in Upper Arlington's master plan, favor sidewalks as pathways toward a connected community.

City officials, backed by provisions in Upper Arlington's master plan, favor sidewalks as pathways toward a connected community.

But because property owners or developers generally are required to pick up the tab, projects to build sidewalks or bike paths can stall. And in some cases, putting in sidewalks is impractical.

Upper Arlington City Council opened discussions during a conference session May 20 about the city's sidewalk policies. A recently established sidewalk task force of council members and city staff is beginning to share ideas.

"Our master plan does call for sidewalks and we want to have some connectivity in the city," said Councilwoman Debbie Johnson, who also is a sidewalk task force member. "We want to have more sidewalks put in, but let's look at this in the right light. It's not a cookie-cutter. It's not necessarily one-size-fits-all."

The Ohio Supreme Court generally has maintained property owners are responsible for sidewalk maintenance. Over the past year, Johnson and Councilman Frank Ciotola have stated publicly that Upper Arlington doesn't have adequate resources to finance neighborhood sidewalk projects.

That puts the onus for expanding local sidewalks on homeowners or developers, but Upper Arlington largely is "built out," Johnson said.

Therefore, unless enough residents in a particular neighborhood petition for sidewalks to be built -- at their expense -- the city primarily can only require sidewalks be installed for "substantial rebuilds" of homes or redevelopments of non-residential areas.

Johnson said council members and other city officials are wrestling with strategies to require sidewalks or bikeways with rebuild and redevelopment projects, while also providing exemptions in instances when such a project would interfere with existing infrastructure.

One possibility would be waivers for neighborhoods or other areas of the city where it wouldn't make sense to require new sidewalks because they couldn't be connected to existing walkways.

"We're looking at waivers when there are extraordinary circumstances or when it just isn't common sense," Johnson said. "Staff will bring us their recommendations and we'll have another discussion before anything comes to council."

At the May 20 conference session, council was presented with a staff report from Upper Arlington City Manager Ted Staton and City Attorney Jeanine Amid Hummer that provided a history of the city's sidewalk policies and suggested streets without curbs and gutters could be exempted from sidewalk requirements.

The report also said council should consider requiring that sidewalks be built "on arterial and collector streets and on residential streets that are within a certain distance from a church, school, park, bus stop or other significant public facility."

City Engineer Dave Parkinson said last week he hadn't "done the math to define what percentage of streets have sidewalks." He added that he currently had no recommendation for council as to how to proceed.

"I do not have any preference for where I would like to see sidewalks," Parkinson said. "I'll coordinate and manage the construction of sidewalks where directed."

In addition to requirements and waivers for sidewalk installation, council also is reviewing policies for citizen initiatives related to sidewalk projects.

"We're looking at ways to make it a little more user-friendly," Johnson said.