The Seaside Planning Commission and local developers are still at odds over a sidewalk requirement for a proposed affordable housing project.
Owners of a 15-acre plot of land on the corner of South Wahanna Road and Avenue S called Blue Heron Pointe plan to build 45 homes priced under $300,000. But the developers — Ritchie Development Corp. — have said the city’s request to have a section of sidewalk built along Avenue S in the first phase of the project would not be feasible.
Commissioners discussed the issue at a meeting Tuesday night. Concerns voiced by the commissioners and members of the public included a 2009 street system plan that calls for sidewalks, bike lanes and foot travel lanes along Avenue S. Drainage concerns from culverts on the property and traffic caused by the lot’s proximity to Seaside Heights Elementary School and a future construction site were also mentioned.
Developers presented an adjusted version of phase one of the three-phase plan Tuesday. The plan would call for a wider passageway inside Blue Heron Pointe that would allow more access from Avenue S to Wahanna Road until the exterior sidewalks eventually would be built in phase three.
Meeting attendees expressed concern, though, that developers may delay building the sidewalks if they don’t collect the necessary funds after selling lots built in the first two phases of the project.
A number of commissioners proposed including a deadline to have the sidewalks built as part of any future approval. Commissioner Richard Ridout suggested the deadline could parallel the opening of a new high school in the city’s East Hills in fall 2020.
“We’ve got no timeline here for how soon anything is going to happen, so I’d like them to put the sidewalk next to the property,” Ridout said.
But Max Ritchie, one of the owners of the property, said the earliest his company could afford to build the sidewalks would be in phase three. While he doesn’t know exactly when that phase would begin, it almost certainly will not be within four years, he said.
Should developers miss the proposed deadline, the city could halt other construction on the property until the sidewalks are built, Commission Chairman Ray Romine said.
Sandra K. Gee, who lives on Cooper Street east of the property, expressed her support for the sidewalk requirement Tuesday night.
“This is a multimillion dollar project,” she said. “I don’t think the cost of that sidewalk on that curve will make or break it, but it gives the owners an out not to build it if they don’t sell all of their houses.”
Commissioners will discuss the issue further before voting on it at a public meeting on March 21.
Ritchie said he is not sure yet how the proposed requirement will affect the future of the project.