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Providence amends sidewalk rules for new subdivisions

October 14th, 2013 Posted in Opinion

By Manda Perkins

PROVIDENCE − The long-deliberated issue of sidewalks was finally put to a vote by the City Council, which decided 3-1 to allow exceptions to the city’s requirement that sidewalks be built in all new subdivisions. The change has been discussed since June 2012, when Steven Baugh, a Providence resident, requested an exception for the development of his property.

Councilman Ralph Call refused to vote on the issue. “It’s a travesty what we’ve done with this,” Call said.

According to Sharell Eames, who has lived in Providence for 43 years, sidewalks have always been an issue; older homes often sit on large properties that have never had sidewalks. But, if a landowner decides to subdivide or develop the property, under Title 11 they are required to put in sidewalks. This often leads to partial sidewalks, or “sidewalks going to nowhere,” Eames said.

In June 2012, Baugh, the owner of three conjoined lots of this nature, requested an exception to city code for a three-lot residential subdivision, asking that he not be required to put in sidewalks. Baugh said he requested the exception because of the nature of his property; putting in sidewalks would require tearing out existing trees, and laying down sidewalk on a very steep hill. He said his neighbors at the bottom of the hill would have a sidewalk 10-15 feet in front of their homes, and would feel obligated to continue the sidewalk when, legally, they don’t have to.

“The city has been strict on following their ordinances,” Baugh said. “Sometimes one size doesn’t fit all.”

The city council granted Baugh the exception a year ago in October. Eames appealed that approval on May 7; she was concerned that city ordinances were not being followed.

Eames said that this isn’t a personal agenda with Baugh; she wants to see an adherence to city codes.

“I live on a hill, and our lot is really down in,” she said. “If we ever wanted to subdivide, we wouldn’t want to put in sidewalks. But, it’s a very dangerous street. Kids ride their bikes down and around.  You’ve got to put in a sidewalk for safety reasons. I think it’s a very legitimate reason. But, I think the city has just not become solidified to a consensus of where we want sidewalks. And if they say that Steve Baugh and his particular property doesn’t need a sidewalk, that’s fine with me.”

The council did not vote on granting an exception for Baugh’s property.  Councilman John Russell moved to table the issue and have the Planning and Zoning Commission continue to work out the details at their next meeting.

Councilman Dale Astle referred to this as “kicking a can down the road,” and said the council had been doing so for far too long. “If P and Z aren’t going to address it, we’re going to either have to grant an exception, or tell Mr. Baugh to be patient.”

In other business, the council:

  • Voted to approve the new Municipal Wastewater Planning Program.
  • Voted to approve the development agreement for the residential lot Hillcrest Subdivision Phase 3, but discussed issues of trespassing on the property.
  • Voted to approve the development agreement for the residential lot Providence Highlands Phase 3.
  • Voted to remove the “voluntary state license” requirement for child care providers as mandated by The State.
  • Voted to continue not allowing short term home rentals in residential areas

NW

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