While only one resident spoke during the course of three public hearings Delaware City Council conducted Monday night, dozens of residents came out to voice their opinions for an unofficial second hearing of the update to the city’s 2010 bicycle plan.
“At our last Council meeting we heard from several of you and we appreciate it and it’s all on record,” said Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle. Among those comments included residents’ support or opposition to a $1.67 million multi-use trail in the plan that would connect Houk Road with the west side of Hidden Valley Golf Course and another trail to downtown.
Riggle said she read every email from residents about the bike plan during an official trip to Sakata city in Yamagata, Japan,
“I just want you to understand,” Riggle said, “we do not have the money to build this at this point. It could be five — it could be 10 years down the road.”
Council voted 3-2 to table the issue until May 22 to allow Parks and Natural Resources Director Ted Miller to review the alternative route that would use William, Curtis and Park streets and the one recommended by some residents.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer and Councilman George Hellinger were the dissenting votes. Councilman Lisa Keller was absent.
Riggle said she would allow further public comment at Monday’s meeting.
“Just don’t repeat yourself,” she said.
But both sides generally went straight to their talking points.
The trail’s opponents have said residents’ homes could be more exposed to criminal activity and its installation would harm the environment.
“The ecology has been addressed very well. I think there’s a safety issue involved as well … and I believe there’s a crime element associated [with the trail],” said John Sweet, a resident of Willow Brook Christian Communities’ Delaware Run campus.
The trail’s price tag and maintenance were other points of contention. The city maintains 15.5 miles of the city’s existing 22 miles. The annual budget should be about $68,000 per year, according to a memo from City Manager Tom Homan. Instead the city has budgeted $25,000 to maintain not only trails, but also sidewalks, handicap ramps and the streetscape.
Lynn Elfner, an Orchard Lane resident, said Council should fix existing problems such as congestion at The Point, the intersection of State Route 37 and U.S. 36, and the can-opener bridge on West Central Avenue, where trucks often get stuck.
“The proposed bike path plan points out that the annual maintenance budget of $5,000 is a pittance to maintain current trails. Future budget projections to catch up on maintenance of existing trails should be at $80,000 annually, according to the consultant’s report and will be way over that amount if new trails come on line,” Elfner said in reference to Stantec Consulting Services, the Columbus firm that drafted the plan’s update.
Meanwhile, supporters of the trail continue to say concerns about crime are not backed by studies, that riding on William Street is not safe for families and that the Delaware Run should be enjoyed by the general public.
“I can’t be on William Street. I can’t put my family at risk,” said Mark Hatten, an avid cyclist who also volunteers on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. “… It has to be separated from the roadway.”
He said the trail would provide an east-west connection to and from the Delaware Community Center YMCA and the Spray and Play at Veterans Park.
“The property in question is owned by all residents of Delaware. I understand that people who live near by, but they have no more or less rights to access or enjoy that property than (other) residents do.”
Hatten said the trail has been on the docket since 2000 when the 2010 bike plan was approved, and that residents who moved in should have expected further development.
“I also have to take a little exception when we talk about ecology that the folks who came in and clear cut tens, dozens of acres and paved it over and built houses are now seemingly concerned about this little strip of land that’s left. That seems a little disingenuous to me,” Hatten added.
Beverly Hall, a resident on West William Street near Houk Road, disagreed. She said her property line goes up to the creek.
Shafer and Hellinger opposed tabling the issue and believed enough time was given for public input. Shafer said it would force council to go through the process again. Hellinger said plans change over time for various reasons.
In other business, Council:
• Approved a permit for outdoor dining at Yumii Kettle Corn, 339 S. Sandusky St., which was formerly an animal care clinic a few years ago. The upcoming eatery is expected to open next year.
• Approved a request from Shorty’s Casual Cuisine, 554 W. Central Ave., to construct a permanent outdoor patio.
• Approved Tim Colatruglio’s preliminary development requests to create a business park at 45 River St. over 2.594 acres. Colatruglio would maintain an existing 2,340-square-foot building, which contains his business, but would add two new commercial buildings at 15,500 and 6,000 square feet.
A resident asked for clarification about an alley, which residents use to access their garages. City officials said it’s not included in the development.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.