- Pam Zubeck
- A new sidewalk will run through this well-kept Patty Jewett yard.
A dispute in the Patty Jewett neighborhood over the unexpected news the city would install sidewalks near homes has been resolved, paving the way for improved "walkability."
Neighbors at first were outraged, though, that the city planned to start work in a few weeks, building 5-foot-wide walkways across what they thought was their property. They were more accepting after civil engineer Ryan Phipps visited them and promised to postpone the work.
"Ryan did agree to wait until the springtime, which makes me very happy," area resident Janel Minerich reports via email.
At issue is the tax-funded Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority's $1 million program to build sidewalks all over the city where none exist today. The program, says city spokeswoman Kim Melchor, connects the pedestrian network and facilitates walkability.
Or as that area's City Councilor Jill Gaebler says via email, sidewalks "contribute to the overall health of our residents and our neighborhoods."
The program rotates through the city's four sectors. Last year, the focus was north of Austin Bluffs. Next year, it will target the southeast and the Broadmoor areas. In 2018, Old Colorado City and the Westside will see sidewalks go in. This year crews zeroed in on the city's center, and Del Norte Street is one example, Melchor says.
Homes there, some built 90 to 100 years ago, don't have sidewalks, though the street itself is wider than many residential streets. Residents say they were surprised when program officials showed up on Oct. 25, saying sidewalks would be built on city right-of-way that reaches 25 feet into some yards.
For Minerich, that means the sidewalk will cut through the middle of what she thought was her lawn.
"Why isn't the city contacting us sooner?" she wanted to know, noting she had just winterized her sprinkler system, a useless expense if workers would tear it out to lay concrete within weeks. She also was concerned that new sod, promised by the city, might not take root during the winter.
"All of us would love for this not to happen," she says.
Karen Smith and Stan Shaffer, whose family has owned the house at the corner of Prospect and Del Norte streets for nearly 60 years, were upset to learn their lilac hedge will have to go.
"Stan's father extended the sprinkler system to keep trees alive" that sit on city property, Smith says. "They said, 'We're going to take that out too.'"
Shaffer says he felt "bum rushed" and "massively bullied."
But following Phipps' return two days later on Oct. 27, after the Independent inquired about the project, neighbors had calmed down — largely because the city agreed to a delay.
"After discussing the issue further with the homeowners the project manager has moved the project to next spring to allow enough time for any residents to relocate their landscaping if needed and it will help the plants survive the winter months," Melchor says.
Smith says Phipps agreed to replant the lilac hedge and grass and not cut down any trees. But she remains skeptical, noting the work "is to be agreed to in writing."
Says Melchor, "We want to assure [residents] that we will continue to work with them to find the best possible solution to install the sidewalk with minimal disruption."
The $40,000 project includes sidewalks on both sides of Del Norte Street, a half dozen ramps, repairing four alleyways and restoring landscaping, she says.