Bluffton unveiled plans for sidewalks along Goethe Road and other nearby streets Tuesday, but some residents are concerned about the route the new paths will follow.
The town plans to build the sidewalks along a mile-long stretch of Goethe Road, from its intersection with Bluffton Parkway to existing sidewalks at the intersection of Dr. Mellichamp Drive.
Sidewalks along Shults Road and Hildebrand Drive also are included in the plans, along with connections to existing sidewalks on Eighth and Ninth avenues in the Red Cedar Place neighborhood.
The project, in development for more than a year, will use the majority of the $375,000 in the town's 2015 budget for pathway improvements, said James Ayers, town director of engineering and public works. Development of the project started after sidewalk improvements on Buck Island Road and in Old Town were well-received by the public, councilman Ted Huffman said.
However, some residents who attended Tuesday's meeting were concerned by the 10-foot easement the town is seeking for construction of the sidewalks. The project will affect about 50 households.
The easement would cover a 2.5-foot buffer between the ditch and sidewalk, the 5-foot concrete sidewalk, and another 2.5-foot buffer between the sidewalk and the homeowner's property along the road. In areas with trees, the gap between the ditch and the sidewalk could grow larger because the town will try to avoid cutting down the trees.
"We don't want our property divided," Goethe Road property owner Lee Smalls said. "We're all for the sidewalk if it is done in a fair way."
Although the town will seek an easement to build and maintain the sidewalk, property owners will still own the land. Ben Frazier and Louise Elliott, who both own property on Goethe Road, were concerned they would be taxed on a stretch of land that they could no longer build on.
"They want to take the property away, then tax us on the sidewalk," Elliott said. "That's not fair. If they want a sidewalk, they should redirect the drainage or put it over it. That would be a fair deal."
Burying the drainage and building the sidewalk above it would be "hugely expensive," Bluffton transportation project manager Karen Jarrett said. Project costs for the drainage could make it rise three times at a minimum, she said.
Jarrett said the town would work with residents to determine how to align the sidewalks.
During the hourlong meeting, attended by about 30 people, Jarrett spoke to several concerned residents, offering to come out to their property to go over the sidewalk path. Nearly all of them said they planned to set up appointments.
Construction of the sidewalks is expected to start during the 2015 fiscal year, but an exact time hasn't been set because of the long process of getting easements, Jarrett said.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.