By Tina Alvey
Plans for the latest phase of a grant-funded streetscape project have sparked controversy in the River City.
Ronceverte grant coordinator Doug Hylton explained to City Council Monday evening that phase III of the project calls for construction of sidewalks in three sections of the downtown district and the addition of benches, bike racks, trash barrels and 20 lampposts along city streets.
The total cost of this phase of the ongoing project is $264,000, with the largest share — $220,000 — coming from a safety grant already awarded by the state. That grant required a 20 percent match from local coffers, which Hylton assured Council the city already has in hand, thanks to their approval of the terms attached to a $14,600 contribution by the Ronceverte Development Corporation (RDC). Those terms included the city’s agreement to repair a historic marker and to use part of the funding for the beautification component of the project.
The project includes replacement of the 215-foot sidewalk along Main Street between Cedar and Chestnut streets, a 180-foot extension of the paving (including sidewalk space) on Frankford Road — U.S. 219 — from the RDC office to the one-way exit from Greenbrier Avenue, and the construction of a new sidewalk and parallel parking spaces along East Main Street from Frankford Road to Cherry Street.
It is that last portion of the project that proved to be controversial, as merchant Mary Glover raised objections to the planned elimination of angled parking spaces in favor of parallel parking slots.
Glover recently relocated her business, Greenbrier Cut Flowers & Gifts, from Edgar Avenue to the corner of Frankford Road and Main Street. She told Council the elimination of angled parking near the side of her building will keep her employees from accessing all sides of the delivery van they use, and will force her either to park her personal vehicle in a parking space previously reserved for customers or to not be able to go to work, as other downtown parking spaces are too far away for her to walk from. Glover explained that she has handicaps that make walking difficult.
Further, she said, “That sidewalk is going to lead to nothing,” pointing out that it would not connect to the sidewalk fronting her shop.
Hylton advised Glover that the unmarked angled parking spaces she and her employees are currently using are too short for that type of parking to be safe. He said that the angled spaces on Edgar, where Glover’s business used to be, are 17-feet deep. By contrast, East Main Street can only accommodate a parking space depth of 15 feet.
Both Hylton and Council member David Smith said the plan still allows for a total of six parking spaces along that stretch of East Main, although all of the spaces will be parallel, not angled. Two spaces will be on the north side of the street, nestled into an offset in the new sidewalk, while the other four will be marked off on the south side of the street, next to an existing sidewalk that is also scheduled for replacement.
In response to Glover’s question, “What would it benefit?” Smith replied that schoolchildren get off the bus on East Main and have to walk in the street to get from there to Cherry Street and points beyond. He said providing sidewalks for those children to walk on is a public safety issue for the city.
City employees will do most of the work on the project, which is the result of a year of planning, according to Hylton. Work will commence as soon as feasible, after detailed drawings of each site are completed, he noted.
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