Small Town News

Small Town Business

City discussion meanders on 'sidewalks to nowhere'

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

- Advertisement -

Still no decision on in-fill lot requirement

For Shelton city officials, a three-hour discussion Friday on "sidewalks to nowhere" hardly went anywhere.

The city is considering temporarily abandoning an ordinance that requires new homebuilders to build sidewalks so it won't have to set aside $60,000 for the program in 2015.

The frontage-improvement ordinance calls for developers on in-fill lots, or new construction on vacant lots, to pay for the installation of sidewalks in front of their properties, while the city provides the engineering work and stormwater facilities. In some cases, this has created isolated 60-foot-long sidewalk chunks.

The three commissioners and department heads gathered Friday morning at Central Mason Fire & EMS's downtown Shelton fire station for one task: to give their staff direction on options on frontage improvements, including the option to place a moratorium on the requirement At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Gary Cronce said he was seeking a compromise on sidewalk requirements because the city is faced with a quick budget decision.

Instead, he walked out of the study session after two hours and 38 minutes — about 45 minutes before the meeting ended — without moving from his position that the sidewalk requirement be eliminated because it discourages home-builders.

By the end of the meeting, City Engineer Mike Michael and Public Works Director Greg Clark were instructed to take the commissioners' comments and develop a recommended plan.

The city could consider requiring asphalt instead of sidewalks in front of new houses on in-fill lots, which is cheaper, Clark said.

Cronce said he has opposed the sidewalk requirement for 30 years, including his years as a builder. He said he favors a moratorium.

"If the city gets off the hook, the builders get off the hook," Cronce said.

He added, "The issue is not the sidewalks — it's economics I want policies that encourage Shelton to grow."

Commissioner Mike Olsen suggested the city could require homebuilders to pay for the surveys, which saves the city money. Builders know how to make sidewalks, which only cost about $2,000, he said.

"You can do this in a way that doesn't cost the city or the builder a lot ... I don't think abandoning the sidewalks is the answer," Olsen said.

He added, "I think we can come up with alternatives that work in the neighborhood you're in."

Cronce said he couldn't see himself compromising on the issue with Olsen.

"We are so overregulated ... and sidewalks are part of it," he said.

Commissioner Tracy Moore said she's not willing to throw out or suspend sidewalk requirements. Olsen's suggestions are "a reasonable compromise," she said.

During the public hearing at the meeting, Shelton resident Marilyn Vogler suggested the city should suspend the sidewalk requirement for two or three years and see whether it spurs sales of lots.

"We need that development," she said.

Heidi McCutcheon, executive director of the Shelton Mason County Chamber of Commerce, said she favors a short suspension on the sidewalk requirement while the city forms a committee to look into it.

After two hours, the mayor said he was done talking about the issue.

"Continue on with your conversation," he said. "Send me an email."

Twenty minutes later, he walked out.

Copyright 2014 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: December 18, 2014

More from Shelton-Mason County Journal