|Signs like this line Sleepy Hollow Road.|
Residents expressed anger about the possibility of losing part of their front yards and mature trees – and the potential for declining property values. Many wore buttons with the slogan “Don’t bulldoze our yards.”
|More than 100 people attend a meeting on Sleepy Hollow sidewalks.|
“We’ve been trying to improve pedestrian access on all roads,” Gross said. “It’s the responsibility of local government to make things safer for everybody.” She promised to look at the comments and consider how to improve the project. “This is a work in progress. Let’s give it a chance.”
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation could revise the sidewalk design in light of public feedback, said FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny. However, “the project is moving forward,” he said. Comments can be submitted online.
Project manager Mark VanZandt told the audience the project has already been revised since it was first presented to the public last May. For example, the sidewalk between Eppard Street and Aspen Lane was shifted from the east side to the west side of Sleepy Hollow Road.
In another change, the sidewalk between Holmes Run Road and Aspen Lane will be located in the existing parking lane instead of on residents’ front yards. That portion of the sidewalk will be seven feet wide, instead of five, so it could be used by bicyclists, as well as pedestrians.
And instead of a pedestrian signal at Bay Tree Lane, an “island refuge” will be installed in the middle of Sleepy Hollow to give pedestrians a safe place to stand as they cross the street. Concrete pedestrian refuges are also planned at Eppard Street, Aspen Lane, Dearborn Drive, Kennedy Lane, and Castle Place.
With these changes, VanZandt said, the amount of land rights the county will need to obtain from residents would be “drastically reduced.” FCDOT would still need temporary easements for the construction period.
FCDOT is still planning to put up a retaining wall, topped with a railing, between Valley Brook Drive and the entrance to Sleepy Hollow United Methodist Church, near Dearborn Drive, and at other locations.
The purpose of the project, VanZandt said, is to “provide a safe, separated ADA-compliant walkway to connect existing sidewalks on the Sleepy Hollow corridor.” The project consists of 4,400 linear feet of new walkway.
There is one gap in the sidewalk project, however. It does not call for a sidewalk along the wooded Glavis property – between the church and Malbrook Drive – because the owner is planning to develop houses there.
The owner can build up to 20 houses there by right – meaning the project won’t need to be rezoned, so there wouldn’t need to be a public hearing and the county couldn’t force the developer to pay for a sidewalk.
The design plans for the project should be 90 percent completed by fall 2018, VanZandt said. Utility review and plat development would take place next winter.
Land acquisition negotiations with homeowners would occur in spring 2020, and the county would apply for VDOT construction permits in fall 2020. Construction would take about a year, with the work done in the daytime but not during rush hours.
Several people at the meeting questioned why sidewalks are needed, as there are few pedestrians along Sleepy Hollow and there have been few pedestrian accidents.
Chris Wells, FCDOT’s bicycle and pedestrian programs manager, said people aren’t walking there now because it’s not safe. Once the sidewalks are built, he anticipates many people will use them.
Too much concrete
Other people complained about the loss of the tree canopy and natural habitat, “too much ugly concrete,” the potential urbanization in a green, suburban corridor, and the fact that the estimated cost of $5 million – including land acquisition, as well as design and construction – seems low.
“We want sidewalks,” one resident said, but “this is a significant construction project that changes the entire look and feel of Sleepy Hollow Road.”
Biesiadny said the project was on a list of 400 projects evaluated as part of a countywide dialogue on transportation needs in 2012. Projects recommended by FCDOT were approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2014.
While those opposed to the project packed the meeting, there was at least one person who spoke in favor of new sidewalks on Sleepy Hollow Road. “My kid nearly got hit by a car,” he said. “Kids should be able to walk to elementary school, to a park, and to a friend’s house. We need more sidewalks, not less.”