As the Hyattsville City Council moves towards a decision on how to proceed with an overhaul of the streetscape in University Hills, at least two visions for a network of sidewalks in the northern Hyattsville neighborhood have emerged.
One, put forward by Mayor Marc Tartaro, describes a bare bones network of sidewalks designed as a starting point in the often contentious debate over pedestrian facilities in University Hills. The other, put forward by Councilor Tim Hunt (Ward 3), attempts to reconcile objections raised by some neighbors with what Hunt described as an obvious need for sidewalks in many parts of the neighborhood.
members of the Hyattsville City Council debated how to balance objections against the installation of sidewalks in University Hills against the need to provide for safe, walkable routes through the neighborhood.
The discussion centered on building a consensus for how to move forward on a series of planned streetscape and drainage improvements in the northern Hyattsville neighborhood, home to some of the city's most expensive residential real estate.
During the meeting, Mayor Marc Tartaro said that his "minimum" vision for the neighborhood would put sidewalks on both sides of Wells Boulevard as well as sidewalks on at least one side of Stanford Street, Notre Dame Street and Gumwood Street. His minimum proposal, outlined in a map in the image gallery above this article, is designed to give pedestrians no more than a half-block walk to get to a sidewalk, according to Tartaro.
"My minimum point of departure here is all the major thoroughfares have a sidewalk, and that if you are on a side street, absent there being a sidewalk there, that no one has to walk further than half a block to get to a sidewalk," said Tartaro during the meeting. "I think that is a reasonable compromise to start from."
During the discussion, Hunt (Ward 3) put forth a proposal which in many ways exceeds, at least in the number of streets which would get a sidewalk, Mayor Tartaro's minimum vision for University Hills. Hunt's plan, also outlined in the image gallery above this article, puts sidewalks on at least one side of Rutgers, Purdue, and the western half of Hyattsville's Pennsylvania Street, none of which would get sidewalks under Tartaro's minimum vision for the neighborhood.
However, Hunt's proposal differ's from Tartaro's minimum vision by only calling for sidewalks on one side of Wells Blvd, an area of the neighborhood which had some of the strongest support for sidewalks according to data from a recent city survey. Tartaro wants to see sidewalks on both sides of the neighborhood's de-facto main street, but Hunt is sensitive to concerns voiced by some residents that such infrastructure would make the streets either too narrow or would detract from the neighborhood's tree canopy.
Both Hunt's proposal and Tartaro's "minimum point of departure" would not see sidewalks go on Rosemary Lane, Bridle Path Lane and Pony Trail Lane, the city blocks where opposition to sidewalks has been most intense.
Earlier this week, Ron Pedone, president of the University Hills Area Civic Association, wrote a letter to the HOPE Listserv asking the city council to table or scale back the project in the face of protests from some residents. His letter, written as part of the duties of his civic association office, came despite his personal support for adding sidewalks to the streets of University Hills.
"Changing road design, introducing sidewalks, modifying parking restrictions, altering tree canopies, and heightening worry over potential liability for sidewalk maintenance are considered problems–not solutions–for many residents. To propose a lengthy, complex redesign project that adds to community stress and anxiety when a simple, more pragmatic street improvement approach would suffice seems to be unwise and counterproductive," wrote Pedone.
Do you want to see sidewalks in University Hills? If so, where would you put them? If not, why?