By David Tuma
The Belton Journal
At a public hearing on Sept. 9, the City of Belton heard from the development community and residents regarding potential changes to a sidewalk ordinance. Many residents expressed concern that the proposed ordinance would require a resident in an established neighborhood to put in sidewalks if a building permit was issued, even for unrelated work like a new roof.
Belton’s proposed ordinance is similar standards the City of Killeen uses, but residents here spoke against requiring homeowners to add sidewalks in established neighborhoods.
What Belton is trying to do is to clarify a nebulous ordinance dealing with sidewalks. Belton is a growing community, and its ordinance concerning sidewalks is vague about where they are required.
“We have a lot of new development, and our current sidewalk ordinance is unclear,” City of Belton Public Information Officer Paul Romer said. “The City Council has asked staff to review the policy and recommend changes. The public hearing was the first step in an ongoing process. We received feedback and will use that to guide us moving forward.”
The current ordinance is 503.01, which states that City Council may waive the installation of sidewalks at the time of preliminary plat approval. However, sidewalks shall be required adjacent to all schools.
The proposed ordinance would require new subdivisions to construct sidewalks “on both sides of all arterial streets and collector streets without driveway access” and “local/residential streets and collector streets with driveway access,” as well as requiring sidewalk installation whenever any resident within the city applies for a permit for the “construction, addition or structural alteration on any building or other structure.”
Again, much of the opposition to the ordinance was in relation to requiring sidewalks alongside any permit dealing with home improvements.
The general consensus among opponents was that, due to the high cost of installing a sidewalk, this requirement was impractical and would put undue burden on homeowners. Residents also questioned the need for sidewalks on many city streets, especially non-feeder within closed subdivisions and interior streets throughout the city.
A representative from Carothers Executive Homes also spoke at the meeting, asking council to meet with developers before moving forward with the ordinance.
There is cost involved when requiring new subdivisions to have some kind of sidewalk or trail plan. A new sidewalk costs around $1,400. It also requires more land to accommodate the space a sidewalk takes up.
The city is trying to find a solution that outlines requirements in new subdivisions and provides some continuity to the city. Also a consideration, the city wants standards in place that facilitate safe travel in the community.