Apr 30, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Residents of the Prentiss Drive subdivision in the village came en masse to the village board meeting on Thursday, April 26, to voice their opinions over whether or not the village should pave a pedestrian walkway that connects their neighborhood to West Lake Street.
Approximately 35 people attended the meeting, which was held in the new fire station on Kane Ave. to offer a larger meeting space for the expected crowd, to make known their views on the walkway subject.
At issue was the future of a pedestrian walkway that runs through the neighborhood as a way to connect the Prentiss drive residents to West Lake Street. The walkway has been there more than 20 years, but starting about five years ago, after an electric line was installed underground, the path has become in spots a marshy collection of mud and water in warm weather.
The village is responsible for the path’s upkeep and intends to fix the drainage problem, but in its consideration of whether or not making the gravel path a concrete sidewalk, which would not only fix the drainage issue but also make the path paveable and therefore passable during the winter, it has raised the ire of numerous neighborhood residents.
The issue of the path has been ongoing for several months now, and what started as a disagreement between the town and the residents became a legal issue when residents hired a lawyer to represent their cause. Since then, the lawyers from both sides have been hashing out the issues privately and the village board has refused to discuss the subject at public meetings.
The concern and outcry has reached such a pitch lately, however, that the board decided to hold a public hearing to allow all concerned residents to voice their opinions before the trustees make their final decision.
“This discussion is a courtesy on behalf of the village board, it is not a requirement,” Mayor Marty Hubbard said at the start of the public comment period. “We have an obligation to maintain this path as originally constructed, and we have before us a decision to improve it to a concrete sidewalk surface.”
A mixture of opinions was voiced during the ultimately one-hour session, with some residents adamantly opposed to paving the walkway and wanting to leave it a “natural” gravel path, others were heartily in favor of a concrete sidewalk that would be solid against water and paved in winter, while still others wanted something more permanent that gravel for the path but not as bland and “public” as concrete.
Bill Mahood, a West Lake Street resident, said he supports leaving the path in its “natural state” as gravel versus concrete. To pave the walkway would make it an “eyesore,” would turn the low-traffic pathway to more of a high-traffic area and would turn it into a “magnet” for skaters and skateboarders, he said. He also said the cost of paving would be far greater than of keeping it gravel, and such expense could be better spent on other village issues.
On the other hand, Jack Hellman, a resident of Prentiss Drive, favored the change to a concrete walk because it would make the pathway better defines, it could be plowed in winter and therefore keep the pathway open all year round.
Todd Phillips, a Prentiss Drive resident whose property actually abuts the walkway, said there was “no precedent” for the village to be allowed the pave the path and he found the idea “unacceptable,” saying there was no reason residents should be subjected to have a paved path across their yards.
Another Prentiss Drive resident, Steven Hartnett, said he would be “happy” to have a sidewalk on his property, citing this as a safety issue. “What we have now is not safe, it is not year-round usable,” he said. “I have five kids who use the path all the time. It is not safe for them to walk down Route 41A. All this is clouding the main issue: it is not safe for a kid to walk down Route 41A.”
Some speakers at the hearing both wanted a better path but did not want it paved with concrete. It was suggested that the board look to other paths in the village, such as ones on Orchard Street and on the school grounds, that were made of solid, permeable materials like crushed limestone, which would be able to be plowed in winter but would affect good drainage in summer.
The debate then turned to the legal side of the issue, with questions being raised about the terms “sidewalk” versus “walkway,” and the original intent of both the village and the subdivision builder when the easement for the pathway was put in place in the 1980s and whether or not the village has the right to make changes or the homeowners have the right to stop such changes.
Kevin McCormick, also a local resident, ultimately suggested that perhaps the only real solution to the disagreement was for the two sides to go to court and get a declaratory finding of what the village could or could not do to the pathway. “Go to court, spend a few bucks, maybe it would be resolved,” he said.
At the conclusion of the public comment period, Hubbard said the board would make its decision on the issue by the board’s next meeting. “We’re not going to postpone this decision,” he said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.