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2015-01-22

Sidewalk project up to biz owners

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The decision for the City of Bandera to have stem-to-stern sidewalks may rest with business owners - or, presumably, the actual owners of the buildings that contain the businesses - according to information presented at the Tuesday, Jan. 13, meeting of the Bandera Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission.
At that time, Chairman Tony Battle updated commissioners on a November meeting with staff of Pape-Dawson Engineering, Inc., a San Antonio-based civil engineering firm. He said that in order for the Texas Department of Transportation to cough up 80 percent of the cost of the sidewalk project, the entire community must become involved "... especially the business owners." Battle said, "Nothing can be done until we have the backing of business owners." Until a consensus of business owners is taken, Pape-Dawson remains in a "holding pattern," according to Battle.
To sweeten this most important pot, he suggested offering business owners a rendering of what the project would look like - a recommendation his colleagues approved. "We need to indicate this would impact them in a positive way," Battle added.
Rialto Studios, a large landscape architecture firm in San Antonio, was mentioned as a possible candidate to create the rendering. The firm will be asked to submit a proposal for doing the rendering.
P&Z Commissioner Robert Koimn expressed disappointment that all the firms involved to date in the sidewalk project had been large firms.
"I only know large firms," Battle replied.
By all accounts, the most controversial portion of the project would be changing spaces on Main Street from pull-in to parallel parking. That change would reduce the number of spaces considerably.
Koimn wondered it the sidewalks could be constructed to comply with ADA (Americans with Disability Act) requirements, i.e., making them handicapped accessible, without overhauling the parking situation. He also suggested scheduling an open forum for stakeholders after they have been presented with the landscape rendering.
"It will only take one business owner not to agree to the project and TxDOT won't touch it," Battle noted, adding, "Of course, it's only hearsay that some people may have problems with the project."
According to Battle, staff at Pape-Dawson felt that the City of Bandera would be perfect for the TxDOT project because contiguous sidewalks would make it easier for pedestrians to access schools, the post office, groceries and banks, among other necessary businesses.
"Does every block have to be the same as the one before it?" Koimn asked.
After replying, "yes," Battle added, "Unless the sidewalks are addressed in totality and comply with ADA requirements and all businesses agree, this project is not going to happen. The sidewalks would (need to) go from one end of the town to the other and enhance business opportunities."
He noted that an alternative would be for the City of Bandera to assume the total cost for the sidewalks. "This is still a work in progress and the rendering is the next step."
Discussions of a potential sidewalk project first surfaced in October 2013. At that time, Pape-Dawson's James Lutz offered P&Z members a rudimentary overview of the proposed project. He explained that a viable sidewalk system must relate to commerce and connectivity and offer a "welcome to the community" feeling.
A complete system, Lutz said, would not only include sidewalks, but also trees, pavers and benches, as well as coordination with traffic movement and an existing signal system. "Coming up with a plan can be as complicated or simple as you want," he noted.
Although the City of Bandera Economic Development Corporation appears to have approved funds for the preliminary study, the sidewalk project has essentially remained in limbo.