Residents from a subdivision on the west side of Delaware have concerns about the city’s plan to revamp its transportation system.
City Council did not vote to place legislation to raise the income tax rate from 1.85 percent to 2 percent on the ballot in November as Vice Mayor Kent Shafer and council member Lisa Keller were absent from council’s meeting Monday. Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said she wanted to have all members present for the vote.
If the measure is approved by council and voters, the additional 0.15 percent would generate $2.2 million annually for the city’s “Moving Delaware Forward” initiative, which includes several transportation improvement and street maintenance projects.
City Council spent about an hour and a half Monday hearing concerns from residents with a majority from the Chatham Glen subdivision about the Valleyside Drive extension, which would extend Lexington Boulevard to U.S. 36. The subdivision consists of Chatham Drive, located east of Lexington on West Central Avenue, and Chatham Lane. Residents from that neighborhood fear it will have a negative impact on their neighborhood in the long run.
“We’re [afraid] of losing a lot of our natural habitat,” said Barbara Kleiber, a resident of the subdivision for more than 30 years.
If the income tax issue is approved by voters, the $5 million project could make properties in the area undesirable, introduce more renters to the area and reduce property values, Kleiber said.
Mike West, another resident of the subdivision, said the area has several homeowners who take care of their properties and come from different professional backgrounds, which the project places at risk.
“I don’t want to see a brain drain,” he said.
Bill Ferrigno, director of public works/city engineer, said he understands that no one likes having construction in their backyard and that the city will strive to mitigate the impact of priority projects on nearby neighborhoods.
Ferrigno said the tax rate increase would enable the city to alleviate traffic congestion.
The city now receives $1.92 million on transportation funding with $1.25 million going towards resurfacing of streets and roads. The remainder goes to maintenance, such as signals, lights and patches. The additional $2.2 million would be used solely for transportation, including $800,000 for resurfacing and $300,000 for traffic signal improvements.
“Half of this levy is about maintenance,” Ferrigno said.
He added that if the tax issue is not approved by council or the voters in November, road conditions will continue to deteriorate, producing pot holes that would lower property values regardless.
Ferrigno said he is willing to talk to with residents one on one to answer any questions related to these projects.
Ferrigno said life would go on in the city if a majority of the projects were scrapped, but improvements to The Point is the “crown jewel” of the initiative since it’s the city’s direct line to and from Interstate 71 and the recently opened Tanger outlet mall. Upgrades to that intersection of routes 36 and 37 would establish a four-lane capacity below a new railway structure, including pedestrian access on both sides of the roadway.
“That project is so critical,” he said.
Don Shannon, a bus driver, said he travels several times a day on the city’s local streets. He said he sees the congestion especially when driving through The Point.
“My wife loves going to Kohl’s, but she hates going out to The Point,” he added.
Sean Hughes, city economic development director, wasn’t present at the meeting but in a memo submitted to council said funding is important to economic development as it would alleviate distribution issues for businesses.
“Infrastructure ranks only behind labor force to companies as they seek new locations for their expanded or relocated operations,” he said.
In other business, council voted to have amendments to the city charter on the ballot in November.
City officials recognized now-retired firefighter Charlie Cooperider and his 2016 Fourth of July fireworks team. Riggle said the fireworks display is better than the Red, White and Boom fireworks in Columbus.
Council also approved a combined preliminary and final development plan for a 60,000-square-foot building on about 7.165 acres at Innovation Court. Fed One Dublin LLC officials said the facility, which will be marketed to companies, will have the capacity of up to 10 tenants.
Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.