Craig isn’t as walkable as it could be, but a solution could get complicated.
During part of this week’s Craig City Council meeting, members of council and city leadership discussed the public’s concerns surrounding the city’s busier areas — especially in the area of grocery stores and school buildings.
For the past two meetings, concerns about the city’s walkability were brought up in public comment, prompting city leaders to discuss the possibility of working toward a potential solution in 2022.
No instant answer
Just because a road is within city limits does not mean that the city controls it or that it can build a sidewalk there. For parts of Yampa Avenue, W. Victory Way and other sections of state highways, sidewalks would have to come happen with approval of and inconjunction with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
And it’s not necessarily easier on city-run streets. In other locations, in order to install a new stretch of sidewalk, a homeowner or property owner would have to be the one to install it, since they own the land. Owners would also have to keep up maintenance for the walkway, just like they do alleys or parking adjacent to the property, according to Section 8.04.090 in Craig’s municipal code.
“It shall be the duty of every owner or occupant of any premises to keep and maintain the same at all times, including the sidewalk and parking in front and the alley in back thereof and any easement or other right-of-way between the property line and the curb or middle of the alley in a clean and orderly condition, permitting no deposit or accumulation of garbage, rubbish, litter, weeds or debris other than authorized in this chapter,” the section reads. “Any unauthorized accumulation constitutes a nuisance.”
“It’s a hot topic from both directions: Some want a more walkable community — the majority does — it’s just a matter of how that gets paid for,” Craig city manager Peter Brixius said Friday. “We think it’s important and a priority, too.”
In recent years, the city has made substantial improvements to the city’s trails, Brixius said, which are separate from sidewalks. Brixius said in the years since he has taken over the city manager role, the city has put in thousands of linear feet of trails that can be used by pedestrians and bicycles. Still, Brixius said that making Craig a more walkable place is a priority of the city over the course of the new year. In 2022, $48,500 is budgeted for a trail segment, and other sidewalk repairs will occur as a result of necessity if there are construction-related impacts from street improvements, drainage improvements and parks planning projects.
“Our plan (in the future) is to put together a master plan so we have a prioritized approach for the improvement and replacement of those structures,” Brixius said.
An ongoing problem
In 2003, the city sent a ballot measure to voters to raise property taxes one mill in order to help fund improvements to Craig’s sidewalk system. At that time, the tax increase would have brought in around $42,000, which would have been paired with about $25,000 that the city had budgeted for sidewalk improvements at the time. That ballot measure failed, but even before 2003, Craig residents have been concerned about how pedestrians can move around the city safely.
Since then, concerns about the city’s sidewalk have persisted, according to previous reporting from the Craig Press, and the city has received several grants to improve walkways in various parts of the city. One consideration that was briefly discussed among city leaders on Tuesday was bringing back a taxing district to help fund new construction. There is currently no plan to pitch that to voters, Brixius said, but it has been brought up in the past.
“Special improvement districts primarily set up a mechanism — if it were specific to sidewalks — it would come up with a mechanism that would be approved by the voters. In terms of funding, it can be different in every case,” he said. “It would start to improve sidewalks with the city and property owners in a partnership. That is not something that we’re looking at at this time.”
In a special improvement district, the city and the homeowner share the cost of improvements of the blocks in front of their homes. Similar to a metro district — which is common in communities across Colorado — these taxing entities usually help pay for infrastructure. For now, though, the city has budgeted over $8.8 million for capital improvements — not just sidewalks — but much of that goes to other repairs and projects, including street, curb and gutter. Grant funding will cover $6.1 million of the capital projects and items.
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