UPDATED: Huntington Woods Gets Part Of Their Sidewalk

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UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a statement from an official from the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

Huntington Woods residents got the majority of the sidewalk that they have wanted since the neighborhood was established, Monday evening. Saline City Council voted to approve the construction of a new sidewalk to connect the neighborhood to the southern end of the bridge by the wastewater treatment plant.

“It gets us past the most dangerous points of the area. It gets us beyond the blind curve and to the bridge. At that point, it’s a straight way,” Huntington Woods Association President Jeff Weiss said.

Whether a future extension of the sidewalk connects the new piece of infrastructure to the city or not was not a high priority for Weiss. Residents have been complaining since their neighborhood was put in that they couldn’t safely walk to downtown, because a blind curve on the road and a lack of a formal sidewalk made it dangerous for pedestrians.

Weiss was one of several Huntington Woods residents who spoke in favor of the sidewalk Monday evening. The sidewalk has been in a bureaucratic quagmire for years because the stretch of road crosses several jurisdictions, including Saline Township and the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

This means that the sidewalk will not reach directly to Saline’s established sidewalk network. This and worries about contaminated soil over part of the route to town was why Councilor Janet Dillon was the only council member who voted against the move. Dillon said that this project should have been part of the city council general budget, which was also approved Monday evening.

“I understand why people wanted to move forward. I also am in forward of finding a safe passage from Huntington Woods into the city. I voted no because I didn’t feel as though we were able to check all of the boxes at this time. We’re not providing a full, safe passageway. I just couldn’t in good conscious,” vote for the measure Dillon said in an interview by phone that evening. “We’re giving the impression that it is safe, and it is not safe if it is incomplete.”

Dillon took issue with the fire hydrant that will have to be moved at an enormous expense, that it still won’t quite reach the city’s sidewalks network and that no winter maintenance is planned for the sidewalk. Dillon also felt like the process was being taken too far out of the purview of City Council. The City Manager and Attorney will be supervising the process from now.

“We didn’t have all of the pieces in place, so I felt like it was premature for Council to be making a decision when the agreements between the city and homeowners association had not yet been finalized. That causes me great pause because I feel like there is a chain of command in how things would be done,” Dillon added.

The agreement absolves the city of liability on the new stretch of concrete, and hands it to Huntington Woods. Weiss said that the sidewalk wouldn’t be much used in the winter anyway, making it a moot point. Other councilors – like Dell’Orco, Krause and Camero-Sulak all agreed that the proposal wasn’t ideal, but all said something to the effect that they had to move forward at some point.

“This is not a complete sidewalk, but it is an important first step in completing the connectivity of the city’s south central corridor. I would add too that the argument made that if we can’t get everything that we want, then we shouldn’t do anything at all, is in my judgement, with great respect, folly,”

Marl said.

The original developer of Huntington Woods was originally supposed to build the sidewalk initially, according to the Mayor and Weiss. But that never happened.

The city is going to be spending well over a quarter of a million dollars on this project. Former Huntington Woods Housing Association President Jessica LeFort and Mayor Brian Marl have secured $136,000 from the original developer to help pay for part of the cost.

Part of the reason that this cost was so high was because of the increase in construction expenses since the developer originally broke ground on the project, but it is also partly because of water drainage improvements mandated by the Washtenaw county Road Commission.

"We have been and will continue to go with the city. When they satisfy all of our permit requirements, we will be issuing the permit for work to begin," Washtenaw County Road Commission Managing Director Sheryl Siddall said, Tuesday morning.

Saline Township could immediately be reached for comment, late June 7. This article will be updated when they can be reached.

“I’m thrilled to finally be connected to the city by foot and bike, like other city taxpayers. While I look forward to families frequenting downtown businesses, the real win is safety,” Saline Area Schools Board of Education President Jennifer Steben, who lives in the neighborhood, said in an emailed statement to the Sun Times news. “The blind curve and increasing speed limit has been a real concern for years. I cannot wait for everyone to use the sidewalk, see friends safely and continue to support local.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that Marl had
secured all $136,000 for the project from the original developer. In
fact, he only secured about $30,000 of it and the rest was secured by
LeFort, according to Marl and Weiss.

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