A Falls Church City staff proposal to use VDOT funds to build a sidewalk along N. West Street could run afoul of the same kind of angry citizen response the Council encountered earlier this year to a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly plan that would have removed on-street parking. So the F.C. City Council agreed at a work session tonight, when urgings of action to meet VDOT deadlines was countered with, in the words of Mayor Nader Baroukh, the “need to handle it delicately, or it will not go well.”
City Manager Wyatt Shields offered that “something will have to give” for the sidewalk plan to work, as the street with on-street parking currently on both sides is only 36 to 39 feet in width, but the minimum required for the sidewalk will be 42 to 43 feet.
The sidewalk plan was introduced as part of the City’s “Safe Streets to School” policy, but when Councilman Phil Duncan asked how many children currently walk to the Mt. Daniel Elementary, City Planner Wendy Block Sanford conceded that few do, she added that the “Safe Streets” plan has as one of its goals to “encourage” students to walk who do not currently.
“How do you know this plan is the safest?” asked Vice Mayor David Snyder.
Instead taking a first step of deploying the VDOT funds (a total of $372,000 available) to develop a study gather data prior to involving the public, the Council decided that notifying the public first about the plan would be a more prudent approach.