Baxter City Council: Should city develop sidewalk ordinance?
BAXTER — It’s a city where wide, paved walking and biking trails are common but sidewalks are not.
During a Wednesday night special Baxter City Council meeting, the addition of two businesses on a future Falcon Drive fueled a discussion about a sidewalk ordinance.
The city currently doesn’t have one.
The council session was devoted to capital improvement plans — mostly streets — although talks included trails and municipal services for water and sewer. The goal was to look through the five-year plan through nearly $43 million of improvements determine if the council wanted to move projects up or add to the list.
The Falcon Drive project is slated for 2014 with an estimated project cost of $107,000 that doesn’t include costs for a stormwater pond.
Trevor Walter, public works director, said the two office buildings going up across from the Brainerd Lakes Surgery Center along Isle Drive didn’t include trail connections. And, Walter said, the two office buildings were not required to add a sidewalk. The intersection was designed without a crosswalk to link to the trail along Isle Drive.
When Olive Garden was going up in Baxter, the restaurant requested a concrete path to connect to the Highway 371/Glory Road intersection.
After decades of planning communities around America’s love affair with the independence of the automobile, the focus has shifted to making areas again more pedestrian friendly and multimodal for bicyclists and walking people.
Walter said a plan or policy from the city council would be a benefit to staff to know where trails are going and where or if sidewalks are required.
Mayor Darrel Olson noted it’s information developers also want up front.
Walter questioned if the city may be missing opportunities by not planning ahead. It also means added costs for pedestrian ramps, signs and paint striping. For the office buildings on Falcon Drive, fitting in a sidewalk would be difficult because the stormwater pond is now planned to the edge of the parking lot, Walter said.
Walter noted most cities do have sidewalk policies in commercial areas. Sidewalks, often concrete, are typically about 5-feet wide and are kept up by the property owner. In Baxter, the paved trails are wider and kept up by the city, which assumes maintenance and liability.
Council members considered which city committee may address the issue but Olson said it would appear that decision rests with the council to make the policy.
Council member Todd Holman said the comprehensive plan gives direction to provide multimodal trails in residential and commercial.
Holman said they’ve talked about these things for a long time, but have3n’t taken that next step.
Holman said a decision has to be made so neither staff nor the council have to wonder for every single project.
“The city sort of came out of the chute right away with the trails, which the city uses for sidewalks,” Olson said, noting the trail on Knollwood which residents use like a sidewalk. “So do we mean a separates concrete sidewalk or a trail, or do we have both of those?”
Staff members noted with a sidewalk that property owners provide upkeep on, there can also be an enforcement issue for the city in terms of repair or snow removal.
Among other future projects brought up during the three-hour discussion was whether the council needed to refresh a previous majority decision to move the signal light from Knollwood to Inglewood Drive.
Foley Road, from Highland Scenic Drive to Elder Drive, is also on the list for 2015 for a mill and overlay. But Walter said if the council is moving the signal light to Inglewood for a Highway 210/railroad connection it doesn’t make financial sense to work on Foley now only to rip it out later with a realignment.
The Cypress railroad crossing isn’t expected until 2018 and Inglewood crossing could be in the works for 2019.
Olson said he agrees with the crossing move to Inglewood and believed many people think of that as a done deal.
Council member Jim Klein wanted to keep it at Knollwood and said Olson must be talking to a different class of people than he on the subject. Holman was also supportive of the Inglewood move.
And council members were asked if the city should include upgrading work on streets at railroad crossings to include requirements for silent crossings, should that issue be brought back in the cities of Brainerd and Baxter in the future. For example Elder Drive, from Glory Road to Highway 210 is slated for work in 2015.
Council member Rob Moser said he could see doing new crossings such as Cypress to the silent crossing requirements for curb and gutter and a concrete center median. But Moser said he didn’t think it was so needed with a mill and overlay but adding it at once made sense to look into. It would come with additional costs.
Council members looked at other street projects slated for 2015.
• Excelsior Road from Cypress to Baxter Drive.
• Novotny and Dellwood improvements.
• Inglewood Drive from Excelsior to Fairview. • Edgewood Drive from Excelsior to Woida.
• Dellwood Drive from Universal to Woida.
• Clearwater Road from Dellwood to 440 feet east.
• Fairview Road 1,636 feet west of Art Ward to 219 feet west of Inglewood and 343 feet west of Memorywood to 333 feet east of Memorywood and Memorywood from Fairview Road to Highway 210. The council also discussed whether this was an opportunity to add a bike and pedestrian trail connection from Inglewood to Foley Road. The question before the council also was whether there was a demand for the trail and whether the school district would participate. Walter said with work on the street, a walking and biking trail could be added next one side of the street but there would still be property and utility issues to consider.
Council member Mark Cross was absent. The council is expected to explore the street issues again at a future council session.