Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hailey sidewalk plans up for review

Council to consider new version of ‘Complete Streets’

Express Staff Writer

Fritz Haemmerle

Hailey residents could see wider streets, with bike paths, sidewalks and loss of parking, as well as some cutting of trees, if proposed new sidewalk and street standards are followed by the city.

They could also find it easier to walk and bike around town.

An initiative put forward by Beth Robrahn of the Hailey Planning Department last year to establish sidewalk and bike path designs for the entire city was met with strong opposition by residents of Old Hailey.

The Complete Streets initiative, based on a national movement to promote biking and walking, called for design standards for sidewalks in city rights of way that have been used for generations in Old Hailey for parking, gardening and snow storage.

Few people came out in support of the Complete Streets standards, which would have consolidated five different sidewalk standards in use by the city today in a sometimes ad-hoc manner.

"The Hailey City Council found that it was impossible to implement, and undesirable to implement, the Complete Streets standards on every street in the city," Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said in an interview.

Robrahn, now director of the newly consolidated Community Development Department, will present a simplified version of the Complete Streets sidewalk and bike path design standards to the City Council on Monday, Feb. 14, at 5:30 p.m. under the agenda item "Title 18."

Under the new version, the use of city rights of way for parking and landscaping may be varied with consideration of the neighborhood context and the factors that affect pedestrian and bicycle safety, Robrahn said.

Monday's meeting will present a summary of sidewalk, bike lane and street design standards within the proposed ordinance. Robrahn will outline proposed criteria for prioritizing streets for sidewalk construction in Hailey. Streets located within a half mile of a school, downtown or neighborhood services could be prioritized for sidewalks. Streets on designated bicycle and pedestrian corridors, in hazardous condition or providing continuous connection to other parts of the city could also be prioritized.

"People were clamoring for sidewalks when I came into office, but I didn't know what this meant and I don't know if residents of Hailey knew what it meant to build them," Haemmerle said. "This is one of the most potentially impactful pieces of legislation I have seen since I have been here. There is a lot at stake in this."

Beth Robrahn said the new street and sidewalk standards are intended to make transportation safe for all modes, and to provide opportunities for public input on sidewalk construction.

"This is about establishing a process whereby people are notified about street and sidewalk designs so there is some accountability on the city's part," Robrahn said. "It's also about establishing minimum reference points that maximize safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, and the tradeoffs you make in case you do something different."

The city recently acquired a $3.3 million federal grant to build five miles of sidewalks in Woodside subdivision, despite the lack of uniform sidewalk standards. With a ramped-up grant-writing program at Hailey City Hall, more grant funding could soon allow for sidewalk construction in other parts of the city.

"A lot of this is based on the idea that the Planning Department knows what's best for the city," Haemmerle said. "Do the citizens of Hailey want this? People need to show up. They need to understand it, think about it and comment on it."

For additional details or explanations on the content of the draft Title 18, contact Robrahn at 788-4221.

The proposed ordinance could be decided on as is or amended by the City Council based on discussion and public input at the meeting Monday.

Tony Evans: tevans

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