Fewer trees and no sidewalks – that’s the end result of proposed property code updates in Gardner. And that’s setting aside our strong opposition to the proposal based on the abhorrence of anything that restricts the rights of individual property owners.
For several weeks, city officials have been debating a series of property code updates that would force residents to shovel their sidewalks within 48 hours of a snow storm – while exempting city staff from doing the same on city-owned sidewalks – and disallow the burning of yard waste in the majority of locations among other things.
City staff argued long and hard about why these particular upgrades are detrimental to the city’s future, but we’re not buying it – not when it’s simple to see the end results long term make for a less desirable community.
For several years, a green movement has encouraged walking and biking, and city planners nationwide have looked for ways to make their communities more walkable. That includes connecting all parts of a community by sidewalk.
However, when Gardner last attempted to build new sidewalks along Washington Street near Wheatridge Middle School, residents there balked at the suggestion. The free money grant the city intended to use to help pay for the construction of the sidewalks was given back to the county.
One reason residents may have balked is that sidewalks, though in the city’s right-of-way, are the sole responsibility of adjacent residents. If someone trips on the sidewalk in front of a house, the homeowners face a lawsuit.
When the sidewalk cracks or ages, adjacent residents bear the cost of fixing them. And in a city that makes no qualms about placing demands on its residents, Gardner citizens can surely expect a timeline complete with fines and court dates the next time city officials decide to update property codes as they relate to sidewalks.
In the meantime, Gardner residents will be forced to shovel sidewalks – sometimes repeatedly, if they live on a street that’s regularly plowed following a snow event. Years from now, we predict sidewalks will be rarer than unicorns in Gardner.
No developer will want to hamstring future residents with the responsibilities and liabilities of a sidewalk. It’s easier just to go without.
And welcome to a community that chops down its mature trees.
Because two-thirds of Gardner was built in the last 10 years, mature trees are as rare as they are beautiful. However, drive down an alley in one of the older parts of town, and you’ll quickly discover piles of leaves and sticks just waiting for a windless day in almost every yard.
Yards are bigger in older neighborhoods, and they’re often covered with sticks, leaves and fallen branches once the snow melts in the spring. Until 2011, residents could set their yard waste on the curb to be collected with the garbage, but new county trash regulations no longer allow trash collection companies to take yard waste to the dump.
Not many residents put their leaves on the curb anyway. Instead, they burned in barrels or in piles once or twice a year.
Now that avenue will be taken from those residents as well. To own a home with mature trees will now require the regular services of a trimming company with a wood chipper. Those services aren’t cheap, and the funds for wood chipping services would be better spent maintaining their actual homes – which by definition are older and require more maintenance.
It will be far easier for the older population, which typically lives in the older parts of town, to hire a wood chipping company one time to cut down their trees than to have the same company come back two or three times a season.
Goodbye trees, and goodbye sidewalks.