Some Sedgefield residents affected by a new sidewalk project are upset by the loss of older trees, the impact on their front yards and the cost of the project.
Construction began the week of March 7 on the sidewalk along the east side of Park Road, from Poindexter Road to Sunset Drive, in the Sedgefield neighborhood.
The Sedgefield Neighborhood Association has mixed opinions about the project. Some members agree with the city, saying improved pedestrian access will increase safety and encourage more residents to walk to nearby parks, schools and businesses.
"This section of Park Road is not accessible to pedestrians and particularly parents with strollers, who have to turn around at Park Road rather than continuing to Poindexter," said Mary Beth Fields, a 23-year Sedgefield resident and SNA board member.
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However, many residents are angry about the cost of the project - $400,000 for a 0.2-mile section of sidewalk - and said they believe pedestrian traffic is not significant enough to warrant the extension.
Some residents also say they are upset about the removal of trees. Most of the homes in the Sedgefield neighborhood were built in the 1940s, and the streets are lined with trees several decades old.
Nine trees border the section of the affected road and will be removed to build the sidewalk.
According to the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County official government website, charmeck.org, the project will create a sidewalk for a gap along Park Road and provide a safe pedestrian walkway.
In July 2008 during its annual review of the Sidewalk Thoroughfare List, city staff determined completing the missing section of sidewalk was a high priority. Numerous meetings have been held to review the project with residents, gather their input into the design plan and obtain their approval.
Sonji Mosley, city transportation project manager, is overseeing the project and said there is a need for the sidewalk, citing the City Council's Retrofit Policy, which includes ranking criteria such as traffic volume, proximity to adjacent land uses (e.g., schools, parks, commercial centers), safety, length of the project and connectivity to other sidewalks.
"Because of this policy, the Park Road sidewalk project was deemed a high-priority project," said Mosley.
Mosley said the project sought opportunities to minimize the impact on trees where possible. New willow oaks will be planted to replace those removed.
"It is sad to see these mature trees cut down," said SNA Vice President Chuck Allen, a 15-year Sedgefield resident whose yard is affected by the sidewalk. "These trees can't be replaced (to their current size) in our lifetime or our children's. I don't think people use the other-side-of-the-street sidewalk.
"The notion that (no sidewalk on this side of the street) prohibits people from walking is wrong."
Residents along this section of road also will lose approximately 13 feet of property to accommodate the five-foot-wide sidewalk and eight-foot-wide planting strip.
Due to the size of the front yards of most of these homes, the length of the sidewalk and planting strips will significantly reduce the overall square footage of the affected properties.
"We are losing half of our front yard - the most of anyone," said Deborah Robinson, a four-year Sedgefield resident and SNA board member. "We will have only 20 feet left."
Several residents are pursuing mediation with the city because they say the city has not provided adequate research into the need for the project, the impact on the homeowners (including economic impacts on property values) or the long-term impact on a historically significant city neighborhood.
Assistant City Attorney Gretchen Nelli said the city was not at liberty to discuss specifics of the mediation and that the case had not been scheduled in court.
The Sedgefield project is the first of several sidewalk projects affecting the neighborhood. Construction will begin along other roads in coming months, meaning more mature trees will be lost in this 70-year-old neighborhood.