CHARLOTTE – The city is considering changes that would create safer conditions for pedestrians.
The Charlotte City Council is scheduled to vote on revisions to sidewalk construction standards Nov. 27. The changes create more triggers for the construction of sidewalks and planting strips along thoroughfares.
Joe Padilla, executive director for the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, told the council during the Nov. 13 public hearing that no one is questioning the need for sidewalks, but he wanted them to understand potential tradeoffs.
Tearing up and replacing substandard sidewalks represents additional costs in grading and clearing that will be passed on to tenants or buyers of new buildings or multifamily housing, he said.
Padilla said additional regulations not only add to costs, but also could hurt city initiatives such as providing more affordable housing and preserving 50 percent of the tree canopy.
He suggests adding exemptions for affordable housing developers that encounter site constraints.
Kate Cavazza, bicycle program manager for Sustain Charlotte, said the amendments would close loopholes allowing developers to sidestep having to build sidewalks for new or phased developments.
“By allowing developers to skirt this responsibility through phased construction and giving them options to build substandard and dangerous sidewalks, we’re denying Charlotteans the social and economic benefits of a walkabe city,” Cavazza said.
Queens University of Charlotte students Katane Deruytter and Katrina Pitts were among seven people speaking in favor of the changes during the public hearing.
Pitts points to state statistics that show an increase in pedestrian deaths in Charlotte.
“We can’t become the dynamic and vibrant city we want to be if our residents and tourists do not feel safe in the city,” Pitts said. “We can not wait until more innocent people are killed.”
Laura Park-Leach, senior vice president for the Metrolina Association for the Blind, explained that planting strips separating sidewalks create a sense of security, especially for visually impaired people.
“Charlotte should provide the highest standard on sidewalk design,” Park-Leach said.