The Vienna Town Council on Sept. 14 approved just one of seven proposed sidewalk projects, citing no clear neighborhood consensus in the majority of cases.
The Council voted unanimously to proceed with a $60,000 initiative to construct a sidewalk along the even-numbered side of Cherry Street, S.W., from Courthouse Road to Cottage Street. The project, which had nearly unanimous support from neighbors, will be financed from the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust.
Robinson, who died in March 2019 at age 96, gave the town $7 million to spend on sidewalk projects within the following five years. A Council member from 2000 to 2009 and a longtime civic activist before then, Robinson had seen her share of sidewalk battles and perhaps wanted to inject some urgency into the proceedings.
Robinson also stipulated that new sidewalks funded by her bequest needed to be built in locations where walkways weren’t already planned or were likely to be financed via grants or new construction.
The Town Council has approved four such sidewalk projects so far, which now are in the design stage, said Vienna Public Works Director Michael Gallagher.
Projects to be financed with Robinson’s bequest are located within the town’s right-of-way and do not affect adjacent property owners’ lot coverage or setbacks, said Town Attorney Steven Briglia.
The Council indefinitely postponed consideration of these items:
• A $70,000 initiative to build a sidewalk on the odd-numbered side of DeSale Street, S.W. from Moore Street to Tapawingo Road.
• A $55,000 proposal to construct a sidewalk along the even-numbered side of DeSale Street, S.W., from Tapawingo Road to the street’s end.
• $65,000 project to build a sidewalk on the odd-numbered side of Melody Lane, S.W., from DeSale Street to Lullaby Lane.
• A $70,000 project to build a sidewalk on the even-numbered side of Tazewell Road, N.W., from Lawyers Road to Holmes Drive.
• A $65,000 proposal to construct a sidewalk on the even-numbered side of Delano Drive, S.E., from Echols Road to the street’s end.
• A $90,000 initiative to build a sidewalk along the even-numbered side of Orrin Street, S.E., from Delano Drive to Follin Lane.
As frequently has been the case in the past, some residents near those locations said they opposed sidewalks there because they weren’t necessary, would damage trees, were too close to houses, would disrupt yards, would encroach on needed driveway space, would make residents feel obligated to shovel snow from the sidewalks and mow grass near them, and would provide easier access for strangers.
“We don’t want this to be an unpleasant process,” said Mayor Linda Colbert. “My thought is we should not be voting on sidewalks that do not have a clear consensus.”
Council member Howard Springsteen concurred.
“We need to have the town pull together,” he said. “We don’t want to be divisive in these neighborhoods.”
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