Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hailey sidewalks plan put on hold

P&Z still at work on specific standards

Express Staff Writer

A complex plan that would implement sidewalk construction standards for every street in Hailey met with opposition from both residents and the City Council on Monday.

The council declined to adopt the so-called "Complete Streets" plan by resolution, though the Planning and Zoning Commission last week recommended approval of the concept. Specific standards for the plan are still in the works, but sidewalks may be a hard sell for some people in Old Hailey.

Jack Northcott lives at the corner of Elm Street and First Avenue in Hailey, beside a recently completed "Safe Routes to Schools" sidewalk. The sidewalk was built to provide safe pedestrian and bicycle access for students attending Hailey Elementary School.

Northcott said he preferred the grass and trees that existed before the sidewalk was built to the "dirt and gravel" that now exists beside the sidewalk. He said developing many more sidewalks in Hailey would be a tax burden.

"Everything you guys dream up, we pay for," Northcott told the council.

The Complete Streets plan is based on a national movement to include pedestrian access on sidewalks and bicycle access on city streets.

"The purpose of this plan is to include bicyclists and pedestrians, who have been left out," said Planning Director Beth Robrahn.

She wrote the plan based on national standards and local workshops. The plan describes six categories of roads in the city, and proposes 16 designs for sidewalks.

The plan, if approved, would add bicycle lanes on the edges of both sides of streets and require the eventual construction of sidewalks on city rights of way, many of which have been used for generations for parking, gardening and lawns in the core residential area of Old Hailey.

"Where would my houseguests park?" asked Second Avenue resident Trish Smith. "As far as I know, the only bicycle and pedestrian accidents in the city are on Main Street, where we already have sidewalks."

Public Works Director Tom Hellen told the council that Old Cutters subdivision, recently annexed on the east side of town, is as close an example as the city has to what a Complete Streets plan would bring to the city.

Hellen is working on a plan to build sidewalks on Woodside Boulevard in Woodside subdivision to increase pedestrian safety in that neighborhood, but some Old Hailey residents like their streets the way they are, without sidewalks.

Many Old Hailey residents would no longer be allowed to park on city streets as they have for generations, but instead would have to develop parking spaces elsewhere on their properties.

Old Hailey resident Peter Lobb said he hoped the city was not trying to build the same "cookie-cutter" sidewalks in Old Hailey that it required of Old Cutters developers.

"It seems like we are planning just to plan," Lobb said.

Councilwoman Carol Brown agreed that the Complete Streets plan might be best applied to new developments and "retrofits," such as Woodside Boulevard.

Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said the plan has little to do with streets, and does not address the problem of providing access through alleyways, which he said would be necessary if people can no longer park on city rights of way.

"This is a deceptive document," Haemmerle said.

Mayor Rick Davis said developing all the sidewalks in the plan would double the city's cost of snow removal.

"I think we should not pass this, based on the comments we have heard tonight," Davis said.

The P&Z will address detailed standards within the plan on Monday, Oct. 4, before the council votes on it again Nov. 8.

In other Hailey news:

( The council voiced unanimous disapproval of a proposed $50,000 stone-facing on a proposed retaining wall planned for state Highway 75 south of Ketchum, saying the money could be better spent elsewhere.

( Mayor Rick Davis announced a plan by the Village at Town Center developer to bring a pharmacy and medical offices to the development on the corner of River and Galena streets.

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