Hopkins planners thought a new sidewalk along 14th Avenue North would improve the neighborhood. People who live there say it wouldn't.
Residents told council as much Tuesday night.
Cost was an issue for some. The proposed location was an issue for others. But most simply didn't agree that another sidewalk would improve the neighborhood.
"So my property value is going to be decreased and I'm going to pay you to decrease my property value?" asked homeowner Wendy Andersen.
It's not unusual with these projects for people to be upset. Their frustrations usually center on cost. This time, most people just didn't like the look of a sidewalk that appears to cut down the size of their yards.
As it is, homeowners actually aren't paying for the sidewalk. The new walkway is part of the street work that the city does annually to maintain its roads. Although homeowners will pay about $1 million of the $2.6 million project's cost through assessments, they will not be assessed for the sidewalk. Their money pays for part of the road reconstruction and water service upgrades.
In addition to 14th Avenue, work will also take place on parts of:
- North Service Drive
- South Service Drive
- Fourth Street North
- Third Street North
- 15thAvenue North
- 16thAvenue North
Although the city owns the space where the sidewalk will go, much of that space is now filled with greenery that the homeowners enjoy.
Andersen objected to losing trees and other landscaping that beautify the area, particularly along Maetzold Field. One block has six trees slated to be removed, although City Engineer John Bradford said planners could save some of the trees by winding the sidewalk around them.
Homeowner Jason Freisinger said the planned six-foot-wide sidewalk is excessive when walkers can just cross the street and use the sidewalk on the other side. He and others thought there aren't enough pedestrians to justify the extra walkway.
Councilman Rick Brausen, who lives in the area and will be assessed with other homeowners, said using a five-foot sidewalk, as the city did in some other parts of the community, could be a better option.
"Heck, we could all be a little closer," he joked.
But he added that he sees people walking or pushing a stroller on the street every day and that he wants to ensure the community is safe for them.
"As much as I don't want to have a sidewalk on my own property, I get why it's there," he said.
Not every homeowner was against the sidewalks. Brett Eslinger, a first-time homeowner who moved in four years ago, said he'd actually like a sidewalk closer to where he lives. Instead, he faces a $5,000 assessment while only getting the road improvements. That's a steep bill when he has a 3 year old and another child on the way.
"($5,000) just seems like a lot of money to be paying for what we're getting," he said.
"It is a lot of money. I'm not going to argue that," countered Mayor Gene Maxwell. "But it really goes back to the quality of life we expect living here in Hopkins."
The council previously approved a few measures to make it easier for residents to pay. The $5,000 amount (technically $4,971) is actually a cap the city approved to avoid assessments ballooning from one year to the next. Council also gives residents up to 15 years to repay the assessment at a 5 percent interest rate.
In the end, council unanimously agreed to move forward with the project. But members promised to take up the sidewalk issue again later. The sidewalks could be removed from the contract or they could instead be built on another street, such as Fourth Street, that some think need sidewalks more badly.
The council plans to accept bids April 5. Construction is scheduled to take place May through October.