BY LYLE KENDRICK
A planned sidewalk would unnecessarily tear down trees, said some Erskine Street residents.
The city also planned the sidewalk without adequately informing them, they said.
Takoma Park is planning to build about 200 feet of sidewalk on the south side of Erskine Street next fiscal year to help make the area safer for pedestrians.
Many residents don’t find it necessary and the construction would destroy some of the area’s natural features, said Douglas Kirkpatrick, who has lived on Erskine Street for about 25 years.
“Some of these are old growth trees,” he said.
Resident Curt Seiss, speaking at the July 15 city council hearing, said the sidewalk has mixed reviews among neighbors and he wants the city to spare the trees they proposed to cut down.
Seiss said there is five feet of space between the road and the trees the city proposed to cut down for the sidewalk during a city council meeting Monday.
But the trees in that zone are city-owned and the city arborist said some of them are unhealthy and have growth issues, said Daryl Braithwaite, director of public works.
She said the department would follow city requirements for replacing the trees they take down.
In addition to the trees, residents question the sidewalk’s necessity.
Kirkpatrick said only three or four people pass by an hour during peak traffic., which is not enough to warrant a sidewalk
He also said the proposed sidewalk would end abruptly and put people in the street.
The area gets plenty of pedestrian traffic and the only areas that would be impacted are in the public right-of-way zone, said Fred Schultz, Ward 6 councilmember.
“These sidewalks are not being built on any property that’s private,” he said.
The land beyond the curb of the street curves upward and does not allow anyone to walk on it, Schultz said during the city council meeting Monday.
The city council passed the first of two votes authorizing installation of traffic calming on Erskine Street, which will include the sidewalk, Monday. The second and final vote is set for July 22.
During the spring, the city gave out notifications to residents about meetings regarding traffic calming, but did not mention sidewalks in the title, Kirkpatrick said.
Seiss, who moved in about 18 months ago, told the council he did not know that the sidewalk would be a part of the traffic calming discussion when he received the notification.
Kirkpatrick said traffic calming is not a hot button issue and the meetings were not widely attended.
But at least 15 people attended the initial meeting about the traffic calming and the sidewalk, Schultz said.
Calming included sidewalk
RK&K, an engineering firm, presented three different traffic calming options at that meeting.
Each included a sidewalk on Erskine Street, Schultz said.
During the second meeting, everybody present agreed to the sidewalk and asked to move it to the city council.
“I was simply doing what the residents in the area had asked me to do,” Schultz said.
He said the sidewalk was first proposed to the community more than a year and a half ago but the city council asked the department of public works to delay construction to give the community a chance to look at traffic calming options.
Neighbors petitioned for a traffic calming review, which caused the city to delay putting in the sidewalk, Braithwaite said.
The city continued to build sidewalks in other areas of Ward 6 last year but did not build on Erskine Street.
Kirkpatrick said during Monday’s city council meeting, city decided to go forward without enabling the residents of Erskine Street a proper vote.
Seiss told the council he wants a vote because his neighbors have mixed feelings towards the proposed sidewalk.
“All the community meetings that have been necessary have been held,” Schultz said.