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Wendy Reuer, Published June 04 2013

Mapleton residents bristle at sidewalk requirement

MAPLETON, N.D. – One resident here said leaving town may be his only option after the Mapleton City Council voted Tuesday to require his neighborhood to install sidewalks.

Phil Gunderson works from his home in the Maple Point Development, which is on the northwest side of the city. In February, Gunderson and his neighbors circulated a petition asking the council to reject a planning and zoning recommendation of adding sidewalks to the development.

Gunderson said about 75 percent of the neighborhood signed the petition and as far as he is aware, only four residents wanted sidewalks put in.

According to a 2008 city ordinance, sidewalks must be added to a development once it reaches 80 percent occupancy, said Mayor Eric Hillman.

Gunderson said there were about 45 households in the development in February.

The development would be assessed for the sidewalks, which would be about $16 per month.

Gunderson said the sidewalks are not wanted for many reasons including cost and appearance. He said sidewalks take away from the “small town feel” of Mapleton.

In an email to the city sent Sunday, Gunderson said the neighborhood suggested lowering the speed limit to 15 mph in the development, adding removable speed bumps on the development’s main road, Maple Pointe Boulevard, and adding a bike lane in lieu of sidewalks.

“I see it as being best for the city in both safety and neighborhood appeal. It looks clean, it looks finished. We are a growing town, we are going through some growing pains,” Hillman said Tuesday.

Many of the roughly 20 residents in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting said they did not believe sidewalks would increase safety. Many also asked council members to address current sidewalks in disarray, something Hillman said “is being done.”

Hillman said residents responsible for sidewalks in need of repair have been given two construction seasons to make the repairs. Hillman said the neighbors also have the option to hire and pay for a private contractor to add the sidewalks.

After a motion by Councilman Barry Lund to postpone the vote until the neighborhood had a chance to apply for grants to install the sidewalks failed, the council was tied in a vote to pass the planning and zoning recommendation to require sidewalks.

Lund and Councilman Ryan C. Johnson opposed the motion, while council members Carlita Dietz and Tom Pederson voted for it.

“I was hoping the residents would come to planning and zoning with a compromise that I could live with,” Dietz said. “But they are opposed to (sidewalks) completely, 100 percent.”

“I was really hoping that somebody would propose a one-sided sidewalk. I liked that design,” Hillman said as he considered his vote.

Hillman ultimately voted for the sidewalks, passing the ordinance.

After the meeting on Tuesday, Gunderson said he is not sure what the neighborhood will do next, or what can be done now that the city has made its decision.

He said he was disappointed the city did not seem to further consider the neighborhood’s options of adding a bike lane and speed bumps.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530