Columbus residents see potential benefits of sidewalks

September 4, 2010 8:59:00 PM

Kristin Mamrack -

 

Unlike Starkville''s ordinance which requires sidewalks in all new residential and commercial developments, Columbus'' Complete Streets ordinance -- requiring curbs, gutters and sidewalks in new developments -- has met with no opposition. 

 

"It was my sense from the constituents it would be something to promote healthy living, where we could put bicycle lanes and walking lanes in new streets and new developments," said Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, who proposed the Complete Streets ordinance, which the city council voted to approve Aug. 17 and on which no negative feedback has been reported. "I haven''t heard anything (from residents or developers), but I thought it was a real good idea to promote healthy living.  

 

"Columbus doesn''t have a lot of big streets we could use, but the streets that are big enough to put that stuff (like sidewalks) in, we need to do it," he continued. "People ride bikes here; people walk a lot. I think it''s a good thing. I think it''s something we need to pursue." 

 

Columbus'' Complete Streets ordinance requires a 4-foot-wide paved shoulder be included with construction of all new roadways or with the resurfacing or reconstruction of a roadway, when roadway traffic is greater than 1,000 vehicles per day. 

 

Additionally, the ordinance requires "bicycle and pedestrian ways" be established in new construction and reconstruction projects undertaken by the city. 

 

Bikeways and walkways are not required when the cost of establishing the paths exceeds five percent of the total cost of the development or when "severe topographic, right-of-way or natural resource constraints" prohibit the installation of the sidewalks "without incurring excessive costs." 

 

Exceptions also are provided when "there is very low population density and scarcity of residents or other factors indicating an absence of present and future need" in the development, according to the Columbus ordinance. 

 

"(City Engineer) Kevin Stafford really went through the ordinance," Karriem said. "We want to promote development in Columbus, but we also need to try to look to promote a healthier community, as well. I think (the ordinance) is a win-win for the developer, as well as the city." 

 

Columbus residents in neighborhoods without sidewalks were quick to express their desire for residential walkways, when polled Saturday, in their East Columbus neighborhoods. 

 

"I wish we had them," said Nefertiti Patmon, who has lived off Emeralde Drive for four years. "We have a lot of kids in the street and it would be a good thing to have." 

 

"The reason I think it would be good (to have sidewalks) is because the new kids moving in and out and the grown people are moving through the yards (now)," said Melissa Johnson, a resident of Deerfield Drive, noting it would be "worth it" to pay more for a home in an area with sidewalks. "A lot of kids tear up stuff. You could make them stay on the sidewalk and out of your yard. It would keep them out of the streets, too." 

 

"They probably would be used by elderly who walk the street and if you had kids, I guess they could use them, which they probably wouldn''t anyway," laughed DeRon Terner, a resident of Ryan Place in East Columbus, noting sidewalks also would be used by "dog walkers." 

 

The Columbus City Council will be asked to issue final approval on the city''s sidewalk ordinance during the Sept. 21 meeting of the council. 

 

Starkville''s sidewalk ordinance, passed in 2009, recently has drawn controversy, with Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Executive Director Rudy Johnson threatening to pull the GTPDD out of Starkville over the ordinance. 

 

A new 14,000-square-foot building for senior citizens is planned for construction just north of the GTPDD offices on Miley Drive, but the ordinance requires about a quarter of a mile of sidewalks be constructed along Miley Drive and C.C. Clark Road before the city would issue an occupancy permit for the new building. 

 

Additionally, the ordinance has come under fire by local developers in Starkville who protest the aldermen''s unwillingness to grant variances of the ordinance. 

 

The Board of Aldermen recently voted to zsend the ordinance back to a Starkville transportation committee for possible revisions.