Durham News

Durham sets sidewalk hearing for Dec. 1

City Council members agreed to proceed with rescinding their OK for 11 sidewalks previously approved in response to citizen petitions.

They put off deciding what to do next.

During Thursday’s work session, the council scheduled a public hearing at its next regular meeting, Dec. 1, on taking back a promise to build the sidewalks, some of which date back to 2006.

City staff had also sketched out a process for the council to invite new petitions for the same projects – though with a $35 per linear foot assessment to adjoining property owners rather than the $5 charge in effect when the petitions were accepted.

Staff members also laid out four alternative courses of action.

“I just found this confusing,” said council member Diane Catotti.

“It is confusing, unfortunately,” said Public Works Director Marvin Williams.

The situation is, the city has a limited amount of money to build sidewalks and more than 230 of them on a to-do list in the 2006 DurhamWalks! plan. Those projects have been ranked for priority according to objective measures – safety issues, proximity to schools, and so forth.

But the 11 projects which citizens specifically requested, and which the council ordered built in years past, are either far down the priority list or altogether absent. Earlier this year, the question came up whether to get the petitioned walks done and out of the way, or do something else.

Council members decided to go ahead with the seven least-expensive petitioned walks – totaling just $169,000 – as long as the petitioners were willing to pay the higher fee. Then the public works and transportation departments got together with the city lawyers.

Doing what the council wanted, it turned out, required an elaborate process of hearings, resolutions and petitions – or no petitions.

Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson, though, told the council all it needed to do at the moment was agree to put a public hearing on the Dec. 1 agenda. Anything else could wait.

“Keep it on the agenda,” Mayor Bill Bell said.

The Dec. 1 meeting starts at 7 p.m.