Princeton Council has approved a change to how the town builds sidewalks. Up till now, half of the cost of constructing sidewalks has been charged to the owner of the abutting property. In future, the town will fund 100% of the cost of new sidewalks. Repairs to sidewalks, which were previously charged to the neighboring property owner, will also be funded by the town.
New sidewalks are one of the most cost-effective and valuable ways to make it easier for people to walk, but many homeowners hate being required to personally pay for an improvement that benefits the entire community. At the same Council meeting, residents of Poe Road complained bitterly in public comment about having to pay for a planned sidewalk on their street, which is part of the municipal sidewalk masterplan. Last year, their opposition led Council President Bernie Miller to vote against the new sidewalk. If the town foots the bill for building sidewalks, it removes a major source of opposition to new paths, and is therefore likely to make it easier for people to get around without cars.
The budgetary impact of the change in sidewalk financing was a source of concern, on an evening when Council introduced a budget that will drive up local property taxes. Sidewalks don’t come for free, but the town made a commitment to ‘Complete Streets’, which risks being undermined by the regular controversies over new sidewalk construction.
Council Member Jenny Crumiller spoke up strongly in favor of the proposed change, saying
“the budgetary impact is much less than the impact of improving both our sidewalk procedures and also the public good..the fairness issue…”
Council voted to remove the 50% homeowner contribution to sidewalk improvements that are currently planned. A formal ordinance to fund future sidewalks will be introduced at a future Council meeting. Bernie Miller looks set to vote against fully funding future sidewalks at this time, but the remaining Council members are supportive. Council also agreed to fund sidewalk repairs, which previously were paid for by the adjoining homeowner. This means that people who have paid for sidewalks in the past will be relieved of the cost of future maintenance.
Watch the discussion on sidewalks via Princeton Community TV, below, starting at 4:09:25: