Residents take sides on sidewalk issue

PAT FRIDGEN
Nancy Layton was one of many residents to voice opposition to sidewalks at the community meeting last week.

Not in my front yard.

That was the consensus of the majority of citizens who attended the public meeting regarding Greencastle's sidewalk policy.

Borough council hosted a community meeting Jan. 26 to hear what residents wanted in terms of a new curb and sidewalk policy. Most of the 40 people in attendance at Grace United Church of Christ preferred their own streets not be included in any sidewalk project.

Historically, the borough has required property owners to install or repair sidewalks when the street was improved. Mayor Robert Eberly, who moderated the evening, acknowledged that the policy came under fire when Williamson was paved by PennDOT several years ago. The affected residents began clamoring for exemption, stating pedestrians did not walk the state road and the topography on some lots was not conducive to sidewalks.

Homeowners from Williamson and the Orchards development were most vocal in opposing sidewalks beyond the downtown area.

Carol Friese, 309 Williamson Ave., cited dangerous sidewalks on Carl Avenue, where she had fallen while walking back to her home after the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in November.

Aldine Martin, 29 Williamson Ave., said he was told when he built his home in the 1950s that he would never have to install sidewalks, and his front yard was solid rock. Nancy Layton, 320 Williamson Ave., who has submitted three letters to council over the years, suggested suspending the ordinance until all the streets in town were paved.

A woman in the audience piped up, "We'll be dead and gone by then."

Richard Myers, 306 E. Franklin St., called council 'elitist' because one of six options exempted neighborhoods which had never had sidewalks. He spent $6,000 on walkways for his corner lot, adjacent from the targeted Orchard development. A neighbor across the street had a substandard sidewalk but had not been required to repair it. "The ordinance has been in place for years. The people managing the policy are not consistent."

Tony Homer, 195 Apple Drive, questioned why sidewalks were even an issue. If it was for safety, a traffic study should be conducted to determine where sidewalks were really needed. If council wanted them for aesthetic purposes, "It's not the government's place what makes a town look pretty."

Neighbor Bill Hudson, 339 Jopa Road, opposed the curbing as well, deploring the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water running down storm drains and out of town. He thought it more beneficial if the water returned to yards to permeate naturally. He added that many of the back streets in Greencastle were 'desolate' as far as pedestrian and motor traffic.

Sidewalks are good

Some people appreciated sidewalks and wanted more in town. Greg Rock, 323 Moss Spring Ave., said he and his wife, and often their grandchildren, walked everywhere. They walked in the streets unless parked cars were in the way. Some sidewalks were dangerous, with uneven bricks or tree roots causing hazardous travel. He wanted a safe route for people to get to the grocery stores, drugstores, and also the businesses on US 11 south of the Route 16 intersection.

Jim Thomas, 55 W. Baltimore St., informed council the Comprehensive Plan soon to be adopted by Greencastle and Antrim Township repeatedly referenced "getting from Point A to Point B without a vehicle. That means sidewalks."

Robert Goetz, 39 S. Allison St., was part of a long, controversial improvement to his street recently, including sidewalks. He was happy with the results, with no more water problems. He agreed it was expensive for residents but concluded, "We've got a model street on Allison."

It's not fair

People who abided by the ordinance in years past wanted fairness to prevail in the present. Lee Edwards and Tom Pasquarello, both of Spring Grove Avenue, put in sidewalks when required.

"I have a grievance if others don't have to now," said Edwards. "Nobody walks on mine and I have to shovel it."

Pasquarello spent $3,500 to take out an old sidewalk and install a new one. If others were now going to be exempt, he wanted his money back.

Scott Highbarger, 61 W. Madison St., was willing to put in a sidewalk in front of his corner house, but not on the Jefferson Street side, which was gravel and would result in the loss of use of his carport. Roy Washington also owned a corner lot, which was vacant, at West Franklin and Jefferson. Since it was a city lot before the Orchards was created, he wanted any exemption that development received.

Eberly saw the current policy as unfair because only streets getting improved sparked new sidewalks, and those tended to be state roads. Therefore, some residents had sidewalks inspected often. Because the borough seldom paved a street, most residents were never in line to install sidewalks. Additionally, the ordinance provided no clause for inspection for safety standards. It did not allow exceptions to the rule. The economy also made it difficult for some people to pay the hefty fee.

Former council member Sydney Vanner, 55 W. Baltimore St., responded, "Regardless of the economy now, it has always been a hardship for people. It was never an issue before Williamson."

Deliberations

Council members Charles Eckstine, Mark Singer, Harry Foley, Duane Kinzer, Paul Schemel and Matt Smith took in the information. They agreed it was a difficult decision and not everyone would be happy with the final result. President Eckstine said they would take some time to consider the issue and address it at the March meeting.

Borough manager Kenneth Womack said he had applied for two grants to help pay for 33 handicap accessible corners and to assist low income residents pay for sidewalks.