City’s policy of installing sidewalks when roads are rebuilt is being tested by impact walkways would have on small yards in old neighborhood
The debate over whether sidewalks should be added to the east side of Harrison Street is about to be rekindled.
Ald. Bill Driscoll asked the Common Council last week to rescind its previous decision to add sidewalks when the road is rebuilt this summer, saying the impact on residents will be significant.
The city painted bright pink lines in the snow on Harrison Street to show where the new sidewalk would be created in an attempt to illustrate the change it would make.
“You can very clearly see it’s going to impact parking,” Driscoll said.
The area is unique, he said, in that residents really don’t have back yards, so the front yard is their living space.
“Their front yard is their back yard,” Driscoll said. “We’d be taking literally half their back yard.
“It would seem like people (passing by) are practically walking in their front door.”
Driscoll also noted that driveways would effectively be shortened, so residents could only park one vehicle instead of two.
“That is just troublesome to me,” Ald. Dan Becker added. “I’d hate to not allow the folks to park the way they always have.”
There is sidewalk on the other side of the street that could be used by pedestrians, Driscoll added.
“I think it’s worthy of reconsideration,” he said. “One hundred percent of the residents don’t want it.
“We’ve gotten by for over 100 years without sidewalk on that street. I think we’ll make it a few more.”
Ald. Kevin Rudser agreed the decision should be reconsidered.
“It seems like you’d have 10 to 12 feet between the sidewalk and your front door,” he said, adding he searched throughout the city for areas where the houses were equally close to the sidewalk.
“I haven’t stumbled upon any,” Rudser said.
Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said the paint reflects a four-foot-wide sidewalk instead of the standard five-foot walkway, a concession made to maximize the front yards, and added that the houses still are about 20 feet from the edge of the sidewalk.
Ald. Mike Ehrlich said he’s willing to revisit the decision, but added that he grew up in that neighborhood and believes “a sidewalk would be beneficial.”
Ald. Doug Biggs also supported the idea of adding sidewalk, saying it is the city’s policy to install the walkways when roads are rebuilt.
“This is the M.O. for the city,” he said. “It’s not something where we’re singling out any one street.
“This is about walkability. It’s difficult to have walkability if you don’t have sidewalks.”
Ald. Paul Neumyer concurred, saying he is worried that if the city doesn’t install the walkway, it could be setting a precedent that would come back to haunt it in the future.
“I’m wondering if we wouldn’t be better off pushing this (street work) off to next year,” he said, noting that would give officials more time to seek a compromise.
While aldermen were asked to reconsider their decision, but because the agenda did not list it as an action item, they could not do anything but discuss the topic.
The issue will be taken up again when the council meets on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
PINK LINES PAINTED in the snow show how close sidewalks proposed for the east side of Harrison Street would be to the houses there. Port Washington aldermen, who last month agreed to install the sidewalks, will consider next week whether to rescind that decision because of the impact it would have on the neighborhood. Photo by Bill Schanen IV