Sidewalks to nowhere a cause for concern

“They are sidewalks to nowhere,” she said, putting on her glasses and doing her best Gov. Sarah Palin imitation.

One of those required to either build a dead-end sidewalk across two sink holes or pay the city in lieu of sidewalks about $20,000 in fees is Brother Bob Evans at the Joseph Storehouse. 

Evans has been approved by Lebanon Planning Commission to add 7,200 feet of storage space to the food bank, and it will cost about $60,000 to do that.

“We need the space to continue to meet the needs,” he said, “but they say we have to build a sidewalk out front, or pay the fee. That’s another $20,000.” So Joseph Storehouse, which has been the guardian angel for about 500 families a month, now needs some angels of its own with deep pockets, too.

In a similar situation, business man Jack Cato elected to build a section of sidewalk in front of a warehouse he’s expanding on Maddox-Simpson Parkway, even though there are no sidewalks in front of any other businesses along that section of road. Out of concern over the issue, city council has decided to have a work session before their next meeting on Oct. 21 to discuss possible changes in the ordinance. However, the Lebanon Planning Commission would also have a voice in the matter and they have generally refused to consider exceptions, which members say could create areas with patches where there are no sidewalks.

In a recent planning meeting, the commission discussed a possible change in subdivision regulations which could allow minor subdivisions, with four or less lots, not to build sidewalks, which wouldn’t affect commercial properties like Joseph Storehouse.

City Planner Magi Tilton said she had been asked about the change to accommodate a property owner in an area where there were no sidewalks yet.

She said the property owner, Jackie Hoffman, wanted to divide off a lot with a house from her farm on Highway 70, but current regulations would require her to build a sidewalk the full length of road frontage on the property, or pay the in-lieu-of-sidewalk fees.

However, members of the planning commission didn’t like the idea. “We already have a good ordinance and I don’t see any reason for change,” Commissioner Beulah Garrett said.

Basically the other commissioners agreed, opposing the change as a “loop hole” which could be used to avoid having to build sidewalks. It was also pointed out that the exception could be used for lots in town and create areas where some lots had sidewalks and some didn’t.

Will Hager from the planning office says the fee, $10 per square foot, was set based on what the city has to pay to build sidewalks, but he thought most contractors, in subdivisions for example, probably paid considerably less.

The real problem, he added, is with small projects.

Tim Martin from the City Engineer’s office said the objective of requiring sidewalks that don’t connect now is to create a network of sidewalks in the future.

“We’ve got to start some where,” he said. Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted