Monday, January 24, 2005

Proposal to Reduce Minimum Street Width for Residential Streets

Prepared Comments Made To
January 24, 2005

I would like to address the discussions that have taken place on council regarding the proposal to reduce the allowed minimum street width for residential streets. Presently, North Canton requires a minimum residential street width of 30 feet and the proposed legislation is to reduce this minimum to 24 feet.

The premise for this reduction is to reduce the amount of storm water runoff. It would appear that if there is truly a concern about storm water runoff that a more comprehensive approach should be taken.

It would be quite logical to reduce the density of development that is currently allowed in residential areas. Larger lot sizes would mean less development under roof and more open ground to absorb the then reduced amounts of rain water.

In addition, if there is truly a great concern with storm water runoff, why isn’t this a county-wide effort? It would seem that to truly make a dent into the issue of storm water runoff that every community would have to participate to have any real beneficial impact on this problem.

Frankly, is it possible that you are attacking the problem from the wrong direction? Shouldn’t there be a county-wide effort to improve the waterways and tributaries where storm water runoff is dumped if there is any hope to significantly improve how storm water runoff is handled?

Trying to marginally reduce storm water runoff into tributaries that have not been maintained for decades and that have never kept pace with development in the county simply by narrowing our residential streets seems to be an ineffective and simplistic way of attacking this problem.

In addition, reducing the minimum required residential street width negatively impacts people’s lives. Aesthetically, it changes neighborhoods.

I live on a street that is 24 feet wide, the minimum width you are now proposing for new development. It is not adequate. In the last few years, there have been five accidents in my block on Fairview Street.

Four of the accidents involved neighbors backing out of their driveways and backing into cars parked on the street. The fifth accident involved a city resident traveling down Fairview Street who was unable to negotiate the narrow passageway between two cars parked on each side of the street. The elderly driver struck one of the cars, wedging her car against one of the parked cars.

Why would you want to create hardships such as these for drivers?

Is this the kind of neighborhood situations that you want to create for residents?

And although you report that the city’s emergency forces have signed off on this proposal, why would you want to create situations where the passage of emergency services down a residential street came down to mere inches? This is what you are creating for the citizens of North Canton.

Mr. Miller, I would like to take issue with your memo to council members regarding this proposal to reduce the minimum required width of new residential streets from 30 feet to 24 feet. I had to laugh when I read in your memo that there is no problem with parking at Monticello. There is no comparison to a development such as Monticello that has half-acre residential lots (that is 20,000 s.f.) to a development that would be built under the city’s current minimum residential building lot R-70 (which is11,200 s.f.) or under R-50 (which is 7,200 s.f.).

Nor can you compare parking requirements of a Monticello to the parking requirements
of our current minimum lot sizes, classified as R-70 and R-50 building lots. Smaller building lots will place a far greater demand on residential roadway requirements, in addition to the two cars most residents own, simply because there are a greater number
of people living closer together who have greater numbers of friends and relatives visiting their homes.

My point is that if you reduce the minimum required width for residential streets, there must be a concurrent reduction in housing density and this means requiring larger building lots.

Yesterday, I visited a number of streets that various council members live on and with the exception of Mr. Foltz, everyone else lives on streets that meet or exceed the current minimum width of 30 feet.

Mr. Sarbach and Mr. Lindower, 7th Street is 30 feet wide. Mr. Peters, Woodside Avenue is 30 feet wide. Mr. Lane, Summit Street is 30 feet wide. Mrs. Kiesling, Bonnett Street is 32 feet wide. Mr. Snyder, your former residence on Wilkshire Circle is 33 ½ feet wide. The majority of this council cannot appreciate the issues that arise from living on a narrow street.

Lastly, I wonder how many here on this council have given this issue very much thought or followed up on the information that was provided to them from Mr. Miller in his memo.

Mr. Miller, in your memo to council members, I could not corroborate the information regarding street widths of certain streets that you list. You state East Maple Street is 24 feet wide. I measured it in three places and no where did I find it to measure 24 feet. Between the YMCA and the Hoover Company it measured 34 feet wide. Farther east near the intersection of Foster and East Maple, the street measured 28 feet wide, not 24 feet.

You state that Woodland Avenue, between Church Street and Tanglewood Drive is 22 feet wide. I measured Woodland near the intersection of Glenwood Street and Woodland Avenue and Woodland Avenue measured 24 feet. I hope these errors were simply typos not an attempt to bolster your argument for your proposal.

I will concur with the statement in your memo that Bachtel Street, between Fair Oaks Avenue and South Main Street, is 21 feet wide.

If you are trying to make an argument that just because these narrow city streets have existed for years and that they are adequate for homeowners and residents, the argument is not valid. I talked to a resident on Bachtel last night and they will tell you quite the opposite, certainly for this narrow portion of Bachtel between Fair Oaks and South Main Street.

This family told me they have complained for years at how inadequate Bachtel Street is for the bus traffic as well as the traffic, in general that uses this street for a cut-through.

I am very concerned that you seem to brag that this narrow street carries school bus traffic and that you are using this street as the basis for your argument to propose that the city reduce the minimum width of residential streets in our neighborhoods.

Just because this city has narrow streets that were laid out when this city was first settled at the turn of the century does not validate the fact that narrow residential streets adequately meet the needs of our neighborhoods today.

How can you honestly say that this proposal has merit?

The proposal to allow a reduction in minimum residential street width without matching changes in minimum lot sizes, in the name of storm water reduction, needs to be shelved just as the proposal a few months ago to turn a significant portion of Price Park into a detention basin was shelved.

Thank you,

Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton