Ocean View continues to talk, debate sidewalks in town

The second public hearing for an ordinance to add an article to the Ocean View town code relating to curbing, paving and duties of adjacent property owners was held on May 17.

As the proposed ordinance amendment reads, “After acceptance by the Town, the repair, maintenance and replacement of the required sidewalk, paving, curbing, or gravelling, shall be the sole responsibility of the Town.”

It adds that the owner of any building or lot that abuts a public sidewalk on its front or side yard — not back yard — will be responsible for removing any snow or ice accumulation on the sidewalk.

Although the May 17 hearing was for the ordinance specifically regarding maintenance, a number of residents offered their views on the town gaining more sidewalks.

Resident Elaine Birkmeyer said she is against having sidewalks in the town at all.

“This is the beach — we don’t need sidewalks… We don’t need any sidewalks to nowhere. No one walks anywhere.”

Elsie Young told council members that her husband is not in the best of health, and she doesn’t like shoveling snow.

“What I’m thinking about doing is calling the governor and telling him that what we’re doing in Ocean View is to put in sidewalks that 80-year-olds have to shovel.

“I hope in my lifetime that council will take into consideration when they’re doing a major project that is going to impact a lot of people, that maybe you could talk to the residents before you get into this stage. My council needs to think of a government of, by and for the people. You’re not in an ivory tower.”

Resident George Walter noted that he worked for the Maryland Department of Transportation for 23 years, many of which were spent working on streetscapes. He put blame of DelDOT for the lack of public input on the sidewalk project.

“In Maryland, we would’ve had plenty more meetings, giving everyone a chance to give a lot more feedback. That really wasn’t done here. I believe that’s mainly DelDOT’s way of doing business.”

He went on to say he believes there needs to be more communication between the Town and DelDOT, and he suggested the town put together a task force to ensure that through changing council members and town employees, there will be a group of individuals who will constantly be up-to-date regarding sidewalk matters.

He cited that Delaware has the third highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the nation.

“Delaware is doing something seriously wrong,” he added.

Kathy Vengazo said that she disagreed, stating that the sidewalk workshops held by the Town and DelDOT had actively solicited resident input.

“I think what has happened regarding this Woodland Avenue project has been government work at its best. We made our comments, and you modified [the ordinance].”

Town Manager Conway Gregory stated that, when he became town manager in 2007, residents of Woodland Avenue had approached him, saying they would like to see sidewalks because they were afraid for their safety to walk down their street due to increasing traffic.

“The idea behind sidewalks is that we want to have a greener community. We want to provide for our citizens of all ages the opportunity to access commercial, residential, business establishments throughout the town by being able to walk to them,” he said, adding that the concept was for a completed network of sidewalks that would connect all residents to John West Park and the Assawoman Canal, where a recreational trail has been proposed.

“Without sidewalks, the idea of walking to some of those commercial facilities is a nonentity, because it is simply not safe,” added Mayor Gordon Wood.

Resident Bill Davey said that, yes, sidewalks are safe, but Woodland Avenue is not designed to take the traffic. He suggested the town look into turning the avenue into a one-way street.

Bill Olsen said he favors sidewalks in town but believes the proposed phases are not in the right order.

“You have to start somewhere. The No. 1 attraction in our town is the park, and you don’t have sidewalks to get to it,” he said.

Peggie Ravida said she had previously lived in a town with sidewalks and found them to be a worthwhile investment that brought a sense of community.

“When you get older in life, it’s so much nicer to walk on sidewalks. The sidewalks have a sense of community. In my community, if someone couldn’t do it, someone helped out,” she added of the maintenance requirements. “The fear of cleaning and taking care of the sidewalks, I think, will be resolved as they are laid and people come forward and meet their other neighbors and help out each other.”

Bob Ravida agreed with his wife, stating that sidewalks are needed to ensure the safety of residents and visitors. He added that they would enhance the value of the community and bring people together.

“My experience is that clearing four or five slabs of concrete was never a major issue.”

Council deferred on a vote on the ordinance, tabling the issue until the following workshop, to be held May 24 at 5 p.m., to ensure a full council vote.

In other town news:

? Council presented a commendation to Odyssey of the Mind participants Rachael Weidman and Matthew Lyons, congratulating them for their “outstanding success.”

“This is a project that requires good adult leadership, outstanding student leadership and an awful lot of hard work on problem solving and ingenuity,” said Wood.