BY REBECCA BENNETT — On July 20, the Hyattsville City Council voted to approve funding for the initial phase of the University Hills Sidewalk and Street Improvement Project. NZI Construction will receive up to $1,083,000 for phase one, a city memo said.
The initial phase will include repairing the street base and resurfacing Stanford, Calverton, Notre Dame and the 3000-3200 block of Gumwood and 3100 block of Rosemary. It also includes repairing or replacing in-kind existing sidewalk, curb, and storm drainage on those streets, according to a city memo.
Phase one plans include installing a new sidewalk on the section of Stanford between Wells and Adelphi, along the north side of the street, a city memo said.
While there was virtually no opposition to street repair,the sidewalks had residents up in arms. “What was clear at time as I spoke to residents across the neighborhood [two years ago while running for office] was that there was no universal answer,” Councilmember Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) said at the July 20 council meeting, stating he found support for the sidewalks equal to their opposition. “There was no consensus on this issue.”
“There is a lot of passion about this project. There is a lot of passion about the sidewalks. The bottom line: the streets need to be repaired,” Department of Public Works Director Lesley Riddle said.
“I think moving forward with resurfacing and refacing of these streets does not go beyond the current scope,” Councilmember Tom Wright (Ward 3) said.
Paschall said a lot of council time and community input had been put into the decisions that had already been made. “I think that if we’re going to make any changes to the Tim Hunt Plan, it should require a really intentional seeking of feedback from the community,” he said.
That plan was presented and approved as amended in 2013, which Paschall said was a compromise measure to meet the wishes of the community while providing pedestrians with continuous sidewalks in certain areas.
Riddle said voting the motion before council would amend the Tim Hunt Plan in two ways:
“We met with residents on Notre Dame, and it was 100 percent that they wanted no sidewalks on Notre Dame,” Riddle said. “And, we determined that we would do no sidewalks on Notre Dame.”
“Stanford, we’re going to be keeping the sidewalk, but then there’s a stretch of Stanford where we will be splitting the sidewalk,” Riddle said.
Former Councilmember Tim Hunt (Ward 3) emailed city officials and the University Hills Civic Association about the July 20 council decision. “It is disappointing to me that council would remove a proposed sidewalk on a street adjacent to a neighborhood park … and one along a thoroughfare … without first informing the public of its intentions in a clear and direct manner,” he said.
“It also gives the Council the opportunity to decide whether they want to proceed with the entire project as originally approved (unchanged), or revisit the sidewalk installation on some or all of the streets [in phase two and three],” City Administrator Tracey Nicholson said at the Aug. 3 council meeting.
Riddle said the city does not plan to remove any trees during the first phase, but if through the vetting process they determine that they want sidewalks on a different street, there may be tree impact.
“We’re trying to look at if we put sidewalks — say on Wells — that there may be some impact … I’m hoping that we won’t have significant tree loss.”
Phase one, Riddle said, is at 100 percent design. Some of the affected areas are at 30 percent design, she said, but some of them are at 60 percent design with 100 percent design expected by Feb. 2016. But Riddle said that she needs to be able to make design changes in the field in discussions about phase one of the project.
“Based on all of these things … makes me think a minor change of scope is the way to go to begin this work,” Wright said.
Though Councilmember Edouard Haba (Ward 4) suggested tabling the motion until the next meeting to see if further input was needed, the council voted on the motion. Paschall was the only councilmember to vote against the motion to allocate funds to start the street project, though he said he wanted to see the project move forward. Councilmember Paula Perry (Ward 4) was absent.
The next community meeting was originally scheduled for Aug. 12., but city officials said it will be rescheduled for September.
“There is a refreshingly new openness to dialog and conversation and an eagerness to hear all resident’s concerns,” Wright said. “Many residents may be fatigued by the process at this point … I am asking my neighbors to stay the course and continue to remain engaged and involved.”