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Sidewalks irk some Hyattsville residents

Some University Hills residents oppose city's green street project

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Published on: Wednesday, October 03, 2012

By Lauren Loricchio

Residents of University Hills, a north Hyattsville neighborhood, object to the city’s green street project, a plan to improve streets and install sidewalks throughout the community.

Two community meetings were held Wednesday, Sept. 12, and Thursday, Sept. 13, to discuss the 30 percent design phase.

Some residents of the neighborhood dislike the idea of the sidewalks for a variety of reasons from shoveling snow to a change in the tree canopy. 

Many of the homes in this neighborhood don’t have driveways, which is a reason why a reduction in street parking due to the installation of sidewalks is a legitimate concern, Councilman Matthew McKnight, Ward 3, wrote in an email.

While some don’t want the sidewalks, others think they would be an improvement in the community. An uncertainty of how the city will pay for the project seems to be a problem.

According to Councilman Tim Hunt, Ward 3, who resides in University Hills, the city has a $3 million deficit.

“Everybody would love to have sidewalks, but it’s so expensive, you know? Where’s all the money coming from?” asked Harold Delchamp, a University Hills resident who attended the Sept. 12 meeting. 

Delchamp, a resident of the community for 34 years, said the two major issues for him are the cost of the project and that already narrow streets will become smaller with the sidewalks. Nobody is against the streets or curbs being repaved, but some people do object to the sidewalks, Delchamp said. 

Mayor Marc Tartaro, who took a lot of heat at the meeting, wasn’t able to clearly explain to residents how the city will pay for the project, Delchamp said. 

“There’s some distrust there,” Delchamp said of Tartaro.

When asked how the city will pay for the project, McKnight wrote in an email, “The city will bond the project and then pay it off over time. We have managed to do the other work without any increase in the city’s property tax rate for the past seven years.”

Council Member Shani Warner, Ward 2, attended the Sept. 13 meeting.

“My expectation would be that a project like this wouldn’t have an impact on property taxes,” Warner said, but also added: “I’m certainly not in the position to promise anyone that the tax rate wouldn’t go up.”

Cost and duration of the project have not yet been determined by the city.

Another major concern of residents is that their voices aren’t being heard.

Jim Menasian, who resides on Rosemary Lane, gathered 86 signatures from neighbors and submitted a petition against the sidewalks to Hyattsville City Council. The petitions were submitted last November, he said.

But the feedback of University Hills residents wasn’t taken into consideration in the 30 percent design plan, Menasian said.

“I personally know of three petitions saying ‘no sidewalks please,’” Menasian said.

Menasian, who attended the Sept. 13 meeting, said he was happy to hear that the mayor plans to issue a public survey to all citizens in the community and to take community feedback into consideration, which will be reflected in the 60 percent plan. 

His concern was that the city didn’t use residents’ feedback for the 30 percent design.

“The full council has not discussed the matter much yet, other than to contract out for design work,” McKnight wrote in an email. “The city has accepted numerous petitions, has collected questionnaire responses online, has held public meetings, and, according to what the mayor said at the most recent meeting, will be polling all households soon regarding sidewalks. The council will get the results of all the information before making a decision.”

“Feedback will be included in the 60 percent plan. It’s unfortunate that the situation has become so polarized at this point,” Warner said. 

Hunt said that the mayor has been constantly changing his story and telling people what they want to hear.

“Time will tell if the mayor and the city are listening to residents,” Hunt said.

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