NEW PALESTINE — A plan proposing new sidewalks and a shared roadway through a New Palestine neighborhood will be changed.
Residents in the Countryside subdivision rallied and convinced a steering committee — which proposed the neighborhood be included as part of New Palestine’s bike and pedestrian master plan — they should be excluded from plans to make the town more pedestrian-friendly.
While the Countryside subdivision is outside town boundaries, officials and members of a steering committee selected the neighborhood for a major portion of the project, which calls for more sidewalks and safer roads to make the town more friendly to active residents. The county would have been responsible for footing the bill for the Countryside portion of the plan if it ever came to fruition.
During a community meeting Wednesday, Countryside residents balked at the idea, saying the neighborhood is already pedestrian-friendly and installing markers and sidewalks could invite unwanted crime.
Following the meeting, which was hosted by Butler, Fairman and Seufert Civil Engineers, the design team overseeing the project, the steering committee discussed the issue behind closed doors. After a lengthy discussion, they elected to take the subdivision out of the plans they’ve been working on since May, members said.
Jason Griffin, landscape architect, said the committee made the recommendation in an effort to connect the subdivision to already established sidewalks because the master plan calls for connectivity throughout and among neighborhoods.
“They obviously don’t want it, so we will not connect them,” Griffin said.
Countryside residents insist the neighborhood doesn’t need sidewalk connectivity now or in the future. Instead, they say the plan doesn’t include remedies for a main issue: making county roads safer and more user friendly.
“We can travel freely through our subdivisions out here,” Countryside resident Beth Essex said. “The problem is getting from one subdivision to the next. It’s the county roads that are not safe or easy to travel.”
She suggested the master plan call for more user-friendly routes along Gem and Mt. Comfort roads, two major routes leading drivers in and out of New Palestine.
“That, to me, is where the focus needs to be,” Essex said.
Town manager Dave Book, who is also a member of the steering committee, said that, because town officials weren’t going to pay for the projects in Countryside and after hearing from residents, it was best to take the neighborhood out of the plan.
“The county probably doesn’t have the money to do it anyway,” Book said.
Now, the master plan will focus on U.S. 52 as the main trail for a shared-user path and roadway. Overall, committee members are still pleased with the proposal and were a little taken aback to hear push-back from the Countryside residents, Book said.
“Most people can see the sense in getting kids and even adults off the street and onto sidewalks,” Book said. “For us, it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t destroy the plan or stop us from doing what we want in any way, shape or form.”
The group will present a finalized plan to the town council for approval at the next meeting scheduled for Dec. 16.