- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The last sidewalk segment, between Lore Road and Alexander Street, of the Solomons Island Town Center Master Plan from 1986 is slowly coming to fruition.
During the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 18, a group of about 15 residents gathered for an informational meeting on the Solomons Island Road Sidewalk Project hosted by the Department of Public Works at the Calvert Marine Museum.
During the meeting, Brent Showalter, with the project’s consulting firm Brudis & Associates Inc., explained that the proposal calls for 8-inch curbs, micro-bioretention areas that are landscaping features adapted to provide on-site treatment of storm water runoff, and that the proposed sidewalk material is concrete.
Concrete did not sit well with the residents in attendance.
Two residents, Joe Peary and David Butler, said they didn’t understand why an impervious material or brick wasn’t being used.
“So you’re gonna go in and put in ugly concrete,” Butler said.
Showalter explained that using pavers would be a 40 percent price increase from the concrete.
“But concrete is going to be a huge maintenance item,” said Peary in response to the increased cost of pavers.
Deputy Director of Engineering Rai Sharma said the master plan “doesn’t call for any material for the sidewalk.” He added that a concrete sidewalk would be “better than nothing.”
In neither the original 1986 master plan nor the updated version adopted in 2009 does the plan call for or recommend a material for the use of the sidewalks.
In the 1986 plan, it only states that “a pleasant walking environment is needed to encourage museum and marina patrons to come on foot to the Island area.”
According to Showalter, the Architectural Review Committee, which has already spoken with DPW about the sidewalk project, “told us we aren’t required to use pavers. ... So, we’re looking at this from an economic standpoint.”
Sharma explained that he “doesn’t know what would happen to the project if I go back and tell the [Calvert County Board of County Commissioners] it will cost more than the estimated $800,000.
“Money is very tight right now, and that’s why we’re looking at alternatives [to the pavers]. Right now, it’s very unsafe for anybody to walk there,” he said.
Sharma explained several times throughout the meeting that there is a possibility that if he tells the BOCC the project will cost more than estimated then there may not be a project.
“It could come to that,” he told the crowd.
The project, Sharma said, isn’t expected to begin until fiscal 2014.
“It’s been in the master plan since 1986,” said resident Bobby Swann. “So, it’s time to get it done.”
Fellow resident Jean McDougall asked if there is “any other way to save and put that savings toward the cost of the pavers?”
She suggested lowering the curb height because “an 8-inch curb on our street wouldn’t look right.”
But, Showalter explained, lowering the curb height could result in runoff from the street getting onto the sidewalk and causing problems. The other purpose behind the 8-inch curbs, he said, was so it would match the existing curbs to the north and south of the proposed sidewalk.
“Matching the north and south curb is pointless because nothing in the middle is going to match,” Peary said.
McDougall also suggested removing the landscaping, which Showalter said was about $40,000 total and wasn’t enough to cover the expense of bringing in pavers for the sidewalk.
“Losing any landscape,” he explained, “would mean losing stormwater management,” because the small landscaping portions have been placed in the “most hydraulic areas, the areas that receive the most runoff” as on-site treatment for stormwater runoff.
The landscaping, Peary said, “is forcing us to park across the street.”
He suggested that instead of the landscape area to catch runoff, that putting the drain on his side of the property along the sidewalk with some sort of trench that goes under the sidewalk would be better so that the parking isn’t lost. However, Showalter explained that it does seem like a good idea but then there would be concerns about the tree line interfering with the project.
Residents also voiced concern over who would maintain the landscape areas. Butler said residents currently have to go along Solomons Island Road in front of the Calvert Marine Museum and collect all the cigarette butts because no else is doing it and he’s afraid the same thing will happen with the proposed landscaping.
Sharma told the residents that “the county will take care of it.”
McDougall asked if removing the driveway bumpers would help cover the cost for the pavers.
Showalter told her yes, but “it’s not going to save enough money” because the bumpers are mostly made of dirt.
Sight distance when pulling out onto Solomons Island Road was another concern residents brought up during the meeting. Sharma explained that short shrubs and bushes and grass are proposed for the bioretention areas and the driveway bumpers — no trees, he stressed.
At the end of the meeting, Sharma said that ADA standards are another reason pavers weren’t in the proposal. He added that there are many communities in the region that have recently built sidewalks that are being pulled up because they didn’t fulfill ADA requirements.
“You need to go back to the drawing board and find ways to save money,” McDougall said.