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Sidewalk plan still has few takers

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The Red Wing City Council's goal of retroactively installing sidewalks in the Hallquist neighborhood was met with opposition Thursday from area homeowners at a neighborhood meeting held at City Hall.

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During the meeting a man asked the 20-plus people present to raise their hands if they favored the sidewalks.

City Council President Carol Duff and council member Mike Hall were alone in raising their hands; the homeowners were unanimous in their opposition. Council member Mike Schultz arrived to the meeting later and said he also was in favor of sidewalks.

The meeting covered the plan to put sidewalks on parts or all of the following streets:

• Hallquist Avenue

• Eunice Avenue

• Frenn Avenue

• Pine Ride Boulevard

• Chickadee Court

Homeowners urged the three council members present and city staff to abandon sidewalks or to find other options.

"I put this as a challenge to the City Council's members to come up with some alternatives," said Cyndee Marcus, who lives on Eunice Avenue. "We don't want concrete slabs."

She said neighborhood homeowners don't want sidewalks running through their front yards, and some homeowners stand to lose mature trees if sidewalks are ordered in.

"It's the destruction of the (neighborhood's) character," Marcus said.

They're not thrilled about being assessed for sidewalks, either.

An alternative discussed was to paint a line on the road and from the line to the curb would be designated for walking.

Schultz said the problem with that is it doesn't really separate pedestrians from cars.

Council members and city staff said sidewalks are part of the city's comprehensive plan and will improve pedestrian safety and help connect different parts of the city. They conceded sidewalks have their downsides, including the loss of older trees.

"With projects like this type of friction it's tough," said Jay Owens, the city engineer.

"We're in a tough situation because we're trying to retrofit," said Schultz, who argued that unpleasantness aside, sidewalks should be installed for public safety reasons.

Homeowners said school children in that neighborhood are bused for the most part. Because of that, they said, other areas should be a higher priority for sidewalk installation.

Schultz maintained that traffic counts are high enough along Hallquist to warrant sidewalks.

The issue will go before the City Council during a public hearing at its March 10 meeting, said Ron Rosenthal, city director of engineering. If the project is approved, homeowners would be assessed for the amount of sidewalk that spans their property.

Rosenthal said the assessments would cover about 30 percent of the cost. The rest would be paid for with taxpayer dollars.

At the end of the meeting, Marcus felt the council members were at least listening to their concerns. Yet she wasn't optimistic.

"I don't think it's going to go in the direction I'm pleased with," she said.

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