August 9th, 2004
Madison Park Neighborhood Association
This meeting was called to order at 7:05pm by President Ted Peters.
[NB: The regular meeting begins at 7:30pm preceded by a social ½ hour.
At the special request of the City, the meeting was scheduled to start at 7:00pm.]
There were 70 attendees with 4 guests from the City of Charlotte.
Ted alerted the attendees that the meeting’s agenda would be abbreviated due to the Sidewalk Presentation.
Ted announced that the community service police officers would return at the regular September meeting when normal business and agenda items will be covered. Ted summarized that normally each officer in turn would report from the Westover Division and the South Division reviewing specific crime incidents as well as general statistics.
Ted reviewed 3 agenda items:
First: Recognition of Earl Cox and Doris Cox who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary recently.
Second: Ted mentioned that he was planning to give recognition to Jean Rabie for her “Eternal Vigilance” in monitoring the culvert running under Seneca and Wedgewood during her walks. (She was not present) Ted reported that Jean insures the culvert is free of obstacles that might clog the waterway. She calls to report any problems to the appropriate officials with the city. And, the culvert was cleared in July.
Third: Ted invited all in attendance to come to our Fall Picnic on Sunday, Sept. 26, on the lawn of Wedgewood Baptist Church. Hours from 3-6. More details to follow after the Sept. HOA meeting.
Ted then turned the meeting over to the City officials. Engineering and transportation department officials attending tonight were Mark Hance, Thomas Sorrentino and Vivian Coleman. Bridget Dixon a Principal Planner with the City’s Planning Commission also attended.
Mark Hance passed out “comment cards” (8 1/2 x 11 sheets) to those in attendance. Thomas Sorrentino stated how the presentation would work and Vivian Coleman asked that any questions be held to the end of the presentation. There was an open question and answer period planned with additional time for one-on-one meetings with the City staff following the open question session.
Overhead visuals were used opening with a Presentation Overview.
2. Why are we here
3. Benefits of Sidewalks
4. Charlotte Sidewalk Program
5. Murrayhill Sidewalk specifically
Vivian Coleman began the presentation by stating that the reason for calling the neighborhood together tonight was to solicit feedback and comment from Madison Park.
Benefits of a sidewalk are: Pedestrian Safety (separate pedestrians from vehicular traffic), Recreation (promote walking and jogging) and Travel Options (facilitate connections to transit stops, parks and schools). Vivian then reiterated that given the state of Fitness and Health (with Obesity in children a growing concern) in America: Walking has great health benefits.
Special Populations. A blind resident (as we previously reported in these minutes) had requested the sidewalk on Murrayhill Road. Sidewalks also benefit hearing impaired and those in wheelchairs.
Charlotte Sidewalk Program
- $5 million per year budgeted for sidewalks by the City
- 610 roads currently on list for sidewalks. [It will take 30 plus years for sidewalks to be completed on the list. Murrayhill sidewalk is on top of the list. Only 20-25 sidewalks built a year.]
Thoroughfare sidewalks, elevation. The sidewalk list is ranked on a point system. Criteria include original requester, locations to schools, libraries, worn paths on shoulders of roads, distance and length, as well as right away, trees, fences and retaining walls.
Within the Public Right of way
Width = 5 feet (a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act)
Location and engineering of right of way given obstructions such as trees and fences.
Sidewalk construction conserves as many trees as possible. The City arborist is consulted during the engineering phase of the project. Murray Hill sidewalk would connect with Pinewood Elementary School by way of a sidewalk “spur” along Wedgewood Drive.
1. Return all comment cards by 8/20/04
2. Staff will analyze comment cards
3. Summary will be reviewed by the Charlotte Dept. of Transportation Director and City Manager
Voting for or against the Murrayhill sidewalk is not the purpose of tonight’s meeting. The meeting was called simply to gather information from those who are for and against the project. Recommendations will be made after the comment cards are gathered.
Judy Bratton, one of the petition drive organizers, wanted to know if Pam Syfert, the City Manager, had alerted the City’s presenters to the existence of the petition drive. Judy had delivered the petition to the manager over a month ago without a response. The presenters were not aware of the petition.
The meeting was then opened for questions.
Attendees wanted to know the exact number of trees being removed. While that number is not known exactly (and will not be known until the city arborist walks Murrayhill with the engineers), an “experienced” estimate is thought to be in 10-12 range in over a mile stretch of road.
Petition Facts. One attendee thought the petition should be redone after the tree facts are known. Attendee stated many signed petition thinking up to 100 trees would be removed or damaged. Environmental issues are one of the main concerns with the project.
Mark Hance stated that Murrayhill has generally elevated terrain on its south side and that was the primary reason for the choice of the north side of the road for the proposed sidewalk. The cost of retaining walls, moving back and re-sloping driveways would result in higher expenses for the city if the south side of Murrayhill were chosen for installation of the sidewalk.
The north side clearly has some major tree conflicts. However the city will try and avoid trees by designing the sidewalk around them. [Trees taken from private property will be compensated for by the City to the property owner.] The number of trees on the North side that would be affected is much fewer than the South side of Murrayhill.
Judy Bratton stated that the petition requested that the City Manager or someone with the project walk Murrayhill. Judy stated she had walked the road and counted the trees in the sidewalk right of way that potentially would be damaged by its construction.
Mark Hance stated that roads with curb and gutter would generally have a 4 foot planter median abutting the back of the curb with a 5 foot-wide sidewalk.
Another attendee wanted to know the exact width of the City’s sidewalk easement right of way.
A few attendees were worried about the diminished size of the front yards that a sidewalk with a planter median would leave from their front doors.
Planting strips according to Mark Hance are intended to buffer pedestrians from traffic. Sidewalks would meander around trees in order to save as many as possible.
Sidewalk planter medians between curb and sidewalk also discourage people from parking on sidewalks.
Rebecca Chambers with the city had previously (according to one attendee) stated that at driveway intersections the sidewalk would be installed flush with the backside of the curb. This statement was confirmed by Mark Hance. He added that this would be the pattern of construction wherever possible. The width of the planting strip will be variable (example: the recently installed sidewalk along the south side of Seneca Place from Wedgewood to Park Road).
Some members said they preferred 2 foot planting strips with a 3 foot sidewalk.
5 foot sidewalks are the standard in U.S. cities. This is a requirement within the ADA law. Wheelchairs must be able to pass each other on sidewalks.
It was conceded that there are some 4 foot sidewalks within the City; but, 5 feet is the standard now with some being as wide as 6 feet.
Pedestrians must be able to walk side by side without having to step off the sidewalk in order to pass one another.
It was noted that many streets are now more like racetracks in our neighborhoods and simply not safe to walk on. A hit and run on Murrayhill was noted as an example of people speeding. Carol Clarke noted that even houses are victims of hit and run. (Her home was recently hit and damaged severely by a drunken speeder).
One attendee stated that by not wanting sidewalks those against the project were being selfish. It was noted that currently Madison Park has many retired residents. As the neighborhood’s retiree’s age and move out, young people and families with young children will be moving into our area.
Another attendee stated that she would support sidewalks but was against the natural planting area.
[Ted Peters President requested that only those raising hands be recognized as attendees began to speak over each other.]
One attendee stated that the section of Murrayhill down to Wedgewood just prior to the first crossing of Wedgewood drive nearest to Park Road is not busy and that sidewalks were not needed there.
An attendee then noted he walks his child on Murrayhill and has no problems. Noting they have speed bumps.
A resident on the North Side of Murrayhill noted that there is a storm drain project taking place in their backyards and now they have property being taken in their front yard for sidewalks as well. He stated construction on the South Side of Murrayhill would have less impact on his property and requested that both sides still be considered for a sidewalk.
Another resident stated that with speed bumps he has no problem with traffic. Also stated sidewalks don’t affect his property value.
Resident noted that the money for sidewalks would be diverted in order to make Seneca Place two lanes in each direction because there is more traffic on that road. He didn’t feel Murrayhill was that busy.
Other attendees noted that traffic would only increase in the future and sidewalks were needed.
A resident wanted to know about protecting tree roots. It was noted that the current sidewalk construction on Gentry Place has exposed tree roots. This sidewalk is being installed by the School (CMS) and is not a city project. The city stated they would take care to protect trees and their roots where possible.
The spur of the Sidewalk off Murrayhill Road along Wedgewood Drive to the rear of Pinewood Elementary School could be petitioned to go all the way down Wedgewood to Seneca Place in order to complete the connection to existing and proposed sections of sidewalk. The school is building sidewalks along all their property borders according to information Ted Peters received from the CMS construction coordinator for Pinewood.
A member mentioned that sidewalks in Dilworth were only 4 feet wide. It was asked if in these older neighborhoods that already had sidewalks would the city go back and make those sidewalks up to 5 feet.
Size/scale is the next main concern of residents after the protection of trees.
One resident said he was for 5-foot sidewalks noting trash cans; yard waste on sidewalks would be a problem. The planting strips would help with blocking of the sidewalks on waste days.
Attendee then wanted to know who was going to maintain sidewalks and planting strips -- cutting them and so forth. City staff stated residents are required to maintain sidewalks and grass strips. Member stated that strips would be crappy looking and not maintained properly in front of some homes. She was also concerned that dogs going to the bathroom would not be cleaned up by owners in strips and on sidewalks.
Another member stated that Code Enforcement should be called (as they are currently) for problems in our community.
Another attendee then stated that it was selfish of those against sidewalks for not wanting them because a blind person had requested the sidewalk. It was noted by this person that it would help property values and provide a safe place to walk.
In turn, another attendee stated that they felt sidewalks are a good thing; but, she was concerned with the number of trees and roots damaged -- especially older hardwoods.
Another attendee wanted to know if the same City Arborist that approved all the trees to be cut down at Pinewood Elementary was working on this project.
A resident wanted to know if the comment sheets would indeed be considered. The city staff reiterated that neighbors’ comments would weigh in the decision to build the sidewalks.
The city reported that preliminary evaluations have been done and costs factored in for tree removal and construction (as is done all over the city). But, the exact number of trees to be removed is not known. One reason exact numbers can’t be given is things happen during the process that might factor in to the removal of a tree. Property owners that have trees on their property (i.e., off the city’s right of way) adversely affected by the sidewalk construction will be compensated by the city for the removal of the trees.
A resident asked if surveys for the sidewalk project have not already been done. The answer from the city was, yes. However, again, city staff could not say exactly how many trees would be removed.
Thomas Sorrentino stated that he had been involved with the project from its conception and that he was certain that perhaps 12-16 trees would be directly affected along the entire Murrayhill Road from Woodlawn to Seneca Place. Another 10-20 are potential problems but would not necessarily fall victim to removal.
Judy Bratton stated that in her petition after her walk along Murrayhill she counted 50 trees to be eliminated with 40 or more at risk.
Mark Hance stated that the exact number would be nowhere near 100 trees damaged or removed.
Mark Hance stated that they could still save even more trees by going to the rear or front of the trees.
A member noted that since 1990 developers had cut down 1/3 of the large mature tree canopy in Charlotte NC. She noted that saving the trees was a real issue for her and others.
Another resident said he thought the City should have had better facts on the number of trees to be removed. That is what residents want to know he stated.
Mark Hance stated again that the purpose of this meeting was to find out if we wanted the sidewalks.
A member then stated that building sidewalks is Proactive. It gives residents a place to walk.
Another resident stated that the sidewalk should be built in someone else’s yard.
Debra Campbell stated that the Queens University Sports Complex Project at Marion Diehl Park was taking away a great wooded area from our community and that was another reason that tree removal for sidewalks was a concern to many residents.
A resident wanted to know what material was used in constructing retaining walls. Interlocking, concrete block retaining walls are currently being installed where needed.
A member said that it was distrust of the city that brought some fear of the project by residents.
The question and answer session was ended and was noted by the presenters that the results of the feedback would be given to the residents at a later date. Forms for those that were not in attendance were available and the city said still other residents not in attendance could provide feedback later on if they wish. Residents could take forms for others or City could mail some to affected residents.
The meeting was adjourned and many in attendance spoke one-on-one with the presenters from the city.