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Hyattsville neighborhood residents seek to curb sidewalk plan

By Timothy Sandoval | The Gazette,

University Hills residents are fighting a plan that would add sidewalks in their Hyattsville neighborhood, saying that the construction will narrow streets needed for parking.

“I have lived here for 50 years, and we have never had to add sidewalks before,” said Anne Kelly, 82, who lives on Pennsylvania Street and said there is little foot traffic in the area. “Why do we need them now?”

The plan, called the University Hills Green Street Project, is to repave roads, add a sidewalk to most neighborhood streets to increase pedestrian safety and allow a walkway for disabled residents. Officials want the sidewalks to be permeable, allowing stormwater to be absorbed into the ground.

Current design plans, which officials said are 30 percent complete, include using some street space for the sidewalk additions, raising concerns among residents that the narrowed streets won’t have as much parking space.

University Hills was annexed by the city in 2006, the same year Hyattsville officials adopted a policy that requires a sidewalk on at least one side of all city streets where they can be feasibly installed.

Since the University Hills project was proposed, many residents have come out against it, including in a petition to the City Council at its Jan. 9 meeting. Twelve residents who live on the 3400 block of Pennsylvania Street signed it.

Councilman Tim Hunt (Ward 3), who lives on Pennsylvania Street and signed the petition, said he opposes the project as presented because parking on the west and north sides of his block could be eliminated, according to the design plans so far.

“That is just impossible on my block because the street is pretty filled up with cars all the time,” Hunt said.

Hunt said he would like a proposal on his block that does not eliminate parking. That likely would require constructing sidewalks from the curb in, where there is grass space and a few trees in front of homes.

Larry Horn, 70, who lives on Wells Boulevard, said he was concerned that the street would be too narrow, making it difficult to drive.

“We never had any problems here, so I don’t see any sense in having a sidewalk,” he said.

Mayor Marc Tartaro said the City Council will take into account residents’ concerns about the project and will work with engineers on the best plan for each street. Tartaro acknowledged that resident reactions at public meetings concerning the project have been largely negative but questioned whether those views reflect the majority of the neighborhood.

Tartaro said residents from 35 households out of about 300 in the neighborhood showed up at the last community meeting on the project.

“Is that a representative sample?” Tartaro asked.

Tartaro said there will not be an estimated project cost until engineers complete the design plan. He said he hopes city officials can announce a timeline for the project next month.

City officials are collecting survey results sent to all neighborhood residents and expect to release the results soon.

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