Sidewalks coming for Herman Park as part of deal for more public access
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 28, 2011 1:46 PM
Ronald Jones rakes sand as a part of the continued construction of the sidewalk in Herman Park. The funds that the city is using to construct the sidewalk are from fees collected in 2007.
An 18-month-long ordeal concerning the closure of Park Avenue came to an end in August with the installation of new, period-appropriate gates and the removal of the restrictive bollards that were installed in January to prevent automobile traffic. But the selling point for the solution gained an unexpected boost from a fund that often gets overlooked during Goldsboro City Council meetings.
Increasing the number of sidewalks in Goldsboro had long been an aim of the city's Planning Department, but rather than require all new developments to implement sidewalks into their site plans, city officials introduced a 2007 amendment to a 2005 code allowing developers to opt out of the mandatory sidewalks in exchange for a fee.
Those payments, which have become known as "fees in lieu," have grown over the years into a considerable amount of funds, which Planning Director Randy Guthrie said allow the city to make better decisions about where sidewalks should go, including in Herman Park.
There, the sidewalk emerged as a compromise to continue to allow easy pedestrian access to the park's signature fountain in the center of the traffic circle while still having the gates closed to protect children playing in the park.
The mysterious and illegal -- there was no public hearing held on the issue as required by city ordinances -- closing of the Herman Park gates on Park Avenue in spring 2010 was a hot-button issue among neighbors and park visitors alike until the council resolved in May to leave the road open.
That 5-0 decision touched off a three-month process to determine how to implement safety measures on the road while still allowing vehicle accessibility for park visitors. The council decided to lower the speed limit on the road from 25 mph to 15 mph and to remove the bollards that were installed to facilitate pedestrian traffic while preventing vehicles from entering the traffic circle. The decision to install gates and close them during peak season came July 5, but was bolstered by a suggestion to install a sidewalk along the north side of the street running east to west and connecting the parking lots.
City Council uses its discretion when granting the sidewalk modification, either because the sidewalk would not connect anywhere or is otherwise unnecessary in that area. The sidewalk fee in lieu fund has grown to $34,307.05
The fee is preferred by developers, since the price of $15 per lineal foot is cheaper than $25 per lineal foot, which is approximately what it would cost to actually construct the sidewalk, Guthrie said.
He said only two projects have received the money recently.