Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are sidewalks in Hailey’s future?

River Street project to test process on Oct. 6


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Parking on city rights of way on Second Avenue in Hailey could be a thing of the past if sidewalks are built as part of the city’s Complete Streets plan. Photo by David N. Seelig

A plan to establish design standards for construction of sidewalks and bike lanes in Hailey has met with resistance from City Council members and residents. Nevertheless, a public meeting next Wednesday on a proposed renovation of River Street in west Hailey could be a model for gathering public input on future street construction projects throughout the town.

The Complete Streets plan is based on a national movement to improve pedestrian and bicycle access on city streets. The plan would designate six categories of streets in the city, and proposes 16 basic designs for sidewalks.

City Planning Director Beth Robrahn said the Complete Streets plan is intended to implement goals outlined in the city's 2007 transportation master plan, which includes addressing the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians in the planning, construction and redevelopment of streets in Hailey.

The plan was recommended for approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission in August. The City Council declined to pass it on Sept. 13, requesting more details from city staff. The plan was heard again by the P&Z on Monday, Sept. 20. The P&Z took public comment, but made no changes to the plan.

"We recognize that there are very different types of streets in different parts of town," said Robrahn, who wrote the Complete Streets plan partly in response to pedestrian and bicyclist safety concerns expressed by Hailey residents. "The idea is that we will have a baseline standard for street designs, but the process will allow for flexibility with regard to any particular design, based on public input."

The Complete Streets plan, if approved by the City Council, 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 in Hailey for parking, gardening and lawns.

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During the Sept. 20 P&Z meeting, Robrahn said sidewalks are more likely to be built on Second Avenue sooner than on other streets due to the fact that the avenue connects a school with the rest of the town.

"If a bike path is built on my front porch, that is not desirable for me," Second Avenue resident Kevin Wallace said.

He said his home was built with permitted parking spaces on the street, parking spaces that will likely go away if Second Avenue gets sidewalks, leaving people to find parking elsewhere on their properties.

Robrahn said that if the Complete Streets plan is adopted, nearby property owners would be called for input on street design details before they are finalized. She said changes to the baseline design could be altered for a number of reasons.

"If a property owner's building does not meet setbacks, or a beautiful tree is where a sidewalk would go, or if slopes conflict with a particular design, these could change the design," she said. "There may be places where sidewalks should not be at all."

Construction of sidewalks in Hailey will only take place as funding becomes available and will be allocated in the context of the city's capital improvement plan.

The River Street renovation could take two years to complete and would depend on funding from a federal grant the city is applying for this fall. The P&Z will hold a public workshop to address possible designs for sidewalks on River Street on Wednesday, Oct. 6, in the City Council meeting room from 10-11:30 a.m. and from 6-7:30 p.m.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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