Browning joins council during bike plan debate


“The bottom line is, you know, half a dozen houses are going to be impacted and the rest of the city is going to be better. In that situation, I lean toward the city.”

Those were Jim Browning’s words when talking about some of the opposition to the city of Delaware’s failed road levy last year during his interview for a seat on City Council. It was an answer to a question about how to handle constituents’ opposition to city and development projects because they don’t want the project to figuratively occur in their backyard.

Browning’s answer will remain somewhat relevant after he’s sworn in to represent the 3rd Ward on council at Monday’s meeting. He replaces former member Joe DiGenova, who died in March after an illness.

Browning said on Friday he would be reading meeting-related material over the weekend and talking to residents.

He and the other council members will consider a resolution to adopt the 2025 Bike Plan, an update to the master bike plan, at his first council meeting.

Some residents along the Delaware Run oppose a trail that would be located along the creek in the 2nd Ward. The estimated $1.67 million trail would extend an existing 1,550-foot path behind Willowbrook Christian Communities and connect Houk Road with the west side of the Hidden Valley Golf Course. It would connect with another proposed trail leading to downtown.

After two meetings that included a public hearing and further public comment, Council asked Parks and Natural Resources Director Ted Miller to evaluate an alternative proposed by residents that would use William Street.

“After reviewing the previous council hearings I could only identify one alternative proposing the elimination of the Delaware Run Segment,” Miller said in a memo to council. “The proposal by the public was to re-route the trail along William St. and use that as an alternate route of the Delaware Run segment. If a design study of the Delaware Run segment was authorized, additional alternatives could be examined but the route is conceptual and only identifies a corridor.”

There are many alternatives that would be determined upon embarking on the Delaware Run segment design, Miller said, but to accurately identify alternates would be difficult until the actual process begins. The bike plan does not guarantee trails would be built since funding has not been secured.

Miller did not recommend the removal of the Delaware Run segment.

“This would limit the options to the city and remove a potential opportunity. In addition, there has been a very vocal group of citizens that support the Delaware Run segment, the elimination of the trail would disregard their public input,” he said.

Some residents oppose the trail because of concerns related to safety, the environment and privacy, and because the trail would be located on a floodplain.

“The question to ask is: would a person with intent travel more than three-quarters of a mile along a path from Blue Limestone Park to commit a crime, and then return back the same distance to make a get-away? Unlikely, because the time required increases the risk of getting caught,” said Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski in Miller’s memo to Council.

Statistics for bike path-related crime is not exact because of a lack of specific addresses. But Delaware police’s system “shows a total of 251 calls for service for the city’s entire 22-mile entire bike path network, since January 2012,” Pijanowski said. “Out of those, a CAD search shows 44 reports were taken for those calls during the five-year period.”

“The history of crime on existing bike paths does not support the premise that residents will be at significant risk. Some crime may occur – this is not unusual when you bring people via development to a previously undeveloped area – but it is not of the type or level to create a substantial risk, in my opinion as Chief of Police,” he said.

For other concerns, city officials said barriers can be used to protect privacy; reviews for environmental impact would be conducted; and trails would be designed to withstand flooding.

“Many communities have utilized the flood plain to construct trails particularly in urban areas,” Miller said.

For other agenda items, Council will:

• Have two public hearings starting at 7:20 p.m. with one on amendments to the planning and zoning code and the other for the vacation of Stratford Drive, which is part of Coughlin’s Crossing Phase 1 project. The development is located north of Meeker Way between Stratford Road and U.S. 23.

• An ordinance that would allow multifamily properties to opt out of the city’s dumpster service. Representatives from some properties have said lower prices are available in the private sector.

By Brandon Klein

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Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.

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