Folks moving into Abilene for the first time can tell you; there's an unusually few number of sidewalks within our residential areas.
They were a topic of discussion at a recent city council meeting, and there's now plans in the works to see more sidewalks in Abilene neighborhoods. "We're a little behind the curve on that," said Jon James, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Abilene. He explains only subdivisions platted after 2006 require the concrete. So even a new home built in, say, 2007, but platted in '05, can go without sidewalks.
Just this month, local home builder, Mason Trendsetters, applied for a waiver to the ordinance at the south side Bella Vista Estates. The company argued the existing homes platted before 2006 didn't require sidewalks, so putting them in in the newly phased areas would be strange. That waiver was denied.
Homeowners we talked to fall on both sides of the issue. "Well I personally don't need a sidewalk, but I know that there's people that do, that have handicaps and whatever," said one man. Another woman shared that, "the other neighborhood we looked at when we were moving here was Lone Star because it's pretty much the only neighborhood with sidewalks." Lone Star Estates off Loop 322 has a full sidewalk system. It was platted before 2006, but putting them in was the developer's personal choice.
There may, however, soon be a way for existing neighborhoods to get sidewalks, if homeowners want them. James says the city of Abilene is working to create programs that would pitch in and relieve some of the cost of putting sidewalks into existing neighborhoods. The details have yet to be worked out, and the programs likely not introduced for a couple of years. "Hopefully we're now on that same path as other cities are and we'll see over time, a better and better sidewalk system develop," said James.
Abilene's sidewalk ordinance requires any new roadways, especially those in residential areas, to have sidewalks. Since the ordinance was enacted in 2006, James says 37 waivers have been granted. James explains the majority of the waivers were given to development in industrial type areas, where future pedestrian activity was deemed very unlikely.