By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Charlottesville officials are changing the process by which new sidewalks are planned. Earlier this month, the planning commission endorsed a new system that replaces a long list of priorities with a much shorter one.

“This [will be] a proactive look at where they are most needed,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services.

Download Jim Tolbert’s sidewalk priority memo

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The revision is due to City Council’s decision last year to increase annual spending on sidewalk construction from $200,000 to $300,000.

Tolbert said that since 1997, the city has been using a priority-based system to determine where new sidewalks will be built. However, city crews have only managed to complete about a third of the projects on the list.

“[The priorities] were developed essentially by compiling all of the requests that were out there… and then putting them through a ranking system,” Tolbert said.  The result was that projects stayed on the list for many years, giving some residents the false impression that all sidewalk projects were scheduled to be built.

Tolbert has now recommended that city staff will compile a list consisting of only 25 projects ranked by several criteria, including whether a new sidewalk would connect a commercial district with neighborhoods.

“What we want to do is bite off five-year increments,” Tolbert said. “If we’ve got a plan for a set number of years, we know how much funding we can need and we can start to show results.”

Other criteria include access to schools and transit stops and whether the neighborhood is eligible to receive funds from community block development grants.

“With our CBDG money and the neighborhood money, we’ve been able to build an awful lot of sidewalks in [low-income] neighborhoods in the last ten years,” Tolbert said. He added that anyone doing new construction in the city is required to build a sidewalk if one does not currently exist.

Other projects are not on the list because they are funded from a different source, such as the new sidewalks that will be built as part of the upgrade of Old Lynchburg Road.

The commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the new format.

The concept will go before city council for their approval on March 7, 2011.

The first set of projects range from 300 feet along 1st Street SE (from South Street to Garrett Street) to 900 feet along Tarleton Drive (from Greenbrier Drive to Banbury Street).


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