About 200 people crowded into Hailey City Hall on Monday for a public hearing on sidewalk construction standards, but the City Council unexpectedly delayed the hearing until March 14, and perhaps for a larger venue.
"I apologize for doing this," said Mayor Rick Davis, who called for delaying the public workshop on the standards, with follow-up meetings at City Hall.
"This is something that carries a lot of gravity to it," he said. "We will take input at the workshop so staff has a really good idea what the City Council wants to accomplish."
Judging from the turnout Monday, it may be time for city leaders to hear first what Hailey residents want accomplished. Sidewalks have been a hot-button issue, in old Hailey in particular, since Community Development Director Beth Robrahn presented a draft Complete Streets ordinance last year to the Planning and Zoning Commission. It called for sidewalks and bike lanes on every street in town, drawing ire from some residents who have used city rights of way for generations for planting, parking and other activities.
Robrahn told the Idaho Mountain Express last week that she abandoned the Complete Streets title, which is based on a national movement to include the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists in street designs, because it was not "politically palatable."
"About a month ago, Complete Streets was tabled and then this ordinance appeared," said Davis in an interview. "I take full responsibility for it. If you don't give your staff good direction on what to do on something, they will work on it on their own."
Though the postponement was announced at the start of the Monday meeting, people who showed up insisted on being heard.
Carbonate Street resident Marcia Collado said the city should wait until summer, when people can see more easily how the sidewalks would impact properties.
Myrtle Street resident Rick Capella called for a larger venue for the public workshop.
"That would be a good idea," Councilman Don Keirn said. "Most people here are from Old Hailey, but we have to consider the rest of the city also."
Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said he welcomed input to the council and mayor from the crowd.
"You can voice your opinions to any of us at any time about Title 18 [which includes proposed sidewalk construction standards]," Haemmerle said. "We look forward to hearing your comments." As the crowd dispersed, about half of the 200 remained behind to see preliminary street, bike path and sidewalk design plans for about five miles of Woodside Boulevard in Hailey.
The plans were based on two public workshops held in Woodside subdivision in January, and would be used in a $4.3 million redevelopment of Woodside Boulevard, including a roundabout at Fox Acres Road and a traffic light where the boulevard meets state Highway 75.
The city acquired a $3.5 million federal grant to pay for the redevelopment. The city would spend about $800,000 on the project.
The roundabout and traffic light are scheduled for completion this summer. The sidewalks are scheduled for construction in summer 2012.
The City Council heard comment for and against the sidewalk designs, as well as advice on how far the sidewalks should be from the street, how hard it will be to shovel snow off them and how to plant and irrigate the buffer zone between the street and sidewalk.
Councilwoman Carol Brown said the city could use local-option-tax funds to pay for snow removal on the sidewalks.
Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said the grant provided a "tremendous opportunity" for Hailey to improve Woodside Boulevard, and advised not narrowing sidewalks to less than 6 feet.
Hailey resident Eric Rector applauded the sidewalk plan and said that if Hailey residents value city rights of way enough to protest the building of sidewalks on them, the city should consider giving them the chance to buy them back.
"This could bring some money to the city," he said.
Hailey Public Works Director Tom Hellen was instructed to take public comment on the roundabout design from neighbors and explore alternative designs for the intersection using stop signs. Those comments will be presented at an as-yet-undetermined date to the City Council.
Lori Labrum, a spokeswoman for JUB Engineering in Salt Lake City, the firm handling the mapping and public comment portions of the Woodside Boulevard project, told the council that she and her team would continue to take public comment as the project moves forward to ensure that the final design meets the needs of all Woodside Boulevard residents.
"If everyone is happy, I am going to be lucky," she joked.
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