Above: Where the sidewalk ends (temporarily) along Coleman Road.
A public hearing was held at this week’s East Lansing City Council meeting (8/16/16) to deal with a dispute about sidewalks on Coleman Road, on the northern edge of the city. Where land has already been developed along Coleman Road, developers have installed sidewalks as required. But this July, the City notified two developers, the Gillespie Group and the Eyde Company, that they must also install sidewalks along their undeveloped properties on Coleman Road by September of this year.
As is their right, the two companies objected to the requirement, indicating they found it unreasonable to be asked to bear such a large cost (estimated by the City to cost in total about $115,000) with such short notice, particularly when the properties are still undeveloped.
City Engineer Bob Scheuerman told Council this week at the public hearing that it seemed reasonable to give the companies more time, so he recommended giving them until June 30 of next year. Scheuerman said that residents were walking in the road along the area because of the lack of these particular sidewalks.
James Wieber, who lives in the area, told Council during the public hearing that many residents in the area—particularly senior citizens, but also younger people—need the sidewalks to walk to local stores, including Kroger and Meijer, and to exercise. He said the lack of sidewalks represented a significant safety hazard.
But representing the Gillespie Group, Jason Kildea told Council he found the request unreasonable, particularly when Bath Township, which owns nearby land, is not taking care of sidewalks in their portion of the area. He said he wanted the deadline pushed to September 30 of next year if Council was going to require the sidewalks be installed before the properties are developed.
With all City Council members agreeing that safety and economic fairness were two interests in need of consideration, the five members debated back and forth not on whether to require the sidewalks, but when to set the deadline.
Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier, who said she recently faced a sidewalk assessment at her own East Lansing home, wanted to give the companies more time, specifically until September 15 of next year. City Councilmember Susan Woods agreed with Beier, saying “it’s a big bill” that might be lowered if the companies had more time to arrange and negotiate contracts.
But Councilmember Erik Altmann said he did not want to delay unnecessarily only to see “someone get creamed between June 30 and September 15” by walking on a road when they could have been on a sidewalk. Mayor Mark Meadows, who lives in the northern section of the city and walks in the area, said he also saw a clear safety need for sidewalks sooner rather than later.
Initially Councilmember Shanna Draheim sided with Altmann and Meadows on the June 30 deadline, but when a compromise proposal was put forth by Beier of a deadline of July 20, Draheim joined Beier and Woods. All Councilmembers then voted in favor of that date.
City Manager George Lahanas was asked to talk with administrators from Bath Township about installing sidewalks in their portion of the area. He indicated he would do so.
After the Council meeting, I met with a group of about ten senior citizens who live in the area and who came to Council for this public hearing. I asked them whether they were satisfied with the results, and they unanimously indicated to me that they were. They told me that there are a number of people with disabilities in the area who will particularly benefit from the completion of the sidewalks along Coleman Road.