All sidewalks to remain

By Seth Schmidt

The Tracy City Council has embraced the status quo for city sidewalk policy.

A council motion passed Monday, states that existing sidewalks will be replaced as city streets are torn up and rebuilt for infrastructure improvements.  No new sidewalks will be built along boulevards where none exist, unless property owners request them.

The council action ends discussion over the past year about not replacing some sidewalks when streets are torn up, as a cost-saving measure.  At the direction of the Tracy Planning Commission, maps were drawn showing how sidewalks could be laid out in the community, if sidewalks in the future were located on just one side of the block. Planning commission discussions also considered whether sidewalks should be extended into neighborhoods where they don’t now exist.

The council motion establishing future sidewalk policy came at the urging of Councilman Tony Peterson.

“This has been kicked around an awful lot. I’d like to see it resolved.”

In Peterson’s view, eliminating sidewalks would be “a step backward.” Sidewalks along boulevards in older sections of town are a part of Tracy’s character, he said, and a safe place for walkers and children playing. 

Councilman Jeri Schons said that most of the comments she has heard about sidewalks come from property owners who don’t have them. “If they don’t have one now, they don’t want one.”

Peterson said that property owners who want sidewalks added, would need to petition for the improvement, and be willing to pay assessments.  Otherwise, Peterson said, he felt it best to not to force new sidewalks into new neighborhoods where property owners don’t want them.  However, it was council consensus that where “gaps” exist in current sidewalks, the city should build new sidewalks to connect existing walkways.

Public Works Director Shane Daniels said that such sidewalk gaps were filled in when Fourth St. was rebuilt several years ago.  

Regarding snow removal and maintenance issues on existing sidewalks, Peterson said that the city needs to enforce the ordinances that it has, rather than create new rules.

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The council’s sidewalk action came after City Administrator Kris Ambuehl reported that information gathered at a recent sidewalk open house had been “inconclusive.”

“We are back to the starting point,” he said, and recommended that “sidewalk standardization” issues be referred to the planning commission for further study.

Peterson then suggested that the council make a decision on sidewalk policy.

Mayor Tony Dimmers responded that “everyone in town should have a chance to be heard” on sidewalk issues.

Peterson said, “Being heard is one thing, but being pushed in one direction is another.”

The mayor said, “It is a contentious issue.”

“It doesn’t have to be,”  Peterson replied, if the council settles the issue.

Councilman Dave Tiegs offered the motion to have sidewalks replaced “like and kind.”  No one voted against the Tiegs motion.