Brown Deer - The Brown Deer Village Board unanimously voted to construct a sidewalk on the north side of Dean Road from Brown Deer's school campus on 55th Street to Teutonia Avenue in a joint meeting with the Brown Deer School Board Tuesday night.
The School Board voted unanimously to support the Village Board's decision.
Debate centered on whether to put the sidewalk on the south side and give a direct route to the schools on that side of the street, or to put it on the north side and affect fewer private properties. Trustees delayed making a decision on this issue until they got assurance that a federal grant would cover the cost of the sidewalk either way.
Both residents and officials said that the road needed a sidewalk, but that neither option would be perfect.
Trustee Jeff Baker said that he originally leaned toward the south side option, but changed his mind when Public Works Superintendent Larry Neitzel said that the pedestrians and traffic would have fewer "conflict points" if the sidewalk was on the north side.
"He thought that the safest route with less conflicts came along the north side, and that kind of swung me," Baker said.
Dean Road currently lacks a sidewalk, and both village officials and residents noted at the meeting that pedestrians either hazardously walk in the road or on residents' lawns. The new sidewalk is part of a project that will re-lay asphalt on Dean Road, which Planning and Zoning Specialist Nate Piotrowski said is overdue.
South more direct route
Originally, city officials planned to build the sidewalk on the south side of Dean Road in order to provide the most direct route to the schools for children. However, that option was controversial because it was the costliest of four plans presented and the sidewalk would cut into the lawns of more properties.
Andrea Verschage, who owns a home on the south side of Dean Road, said that the sidewalk would have come uncomfortably close to her house. Although she said she is happy with the decision, she has the same concern for the homes on the north side of street.
"I'm happy only because I was concerned that the sidewalk was going so close to my house if it were on the south side," Verschage said.
Since tabling the decision at a meeting last month, village officials have confirmed that the community will still receive about $200,000 from a Safe Routes to School grant through the Department of Transportation whichever side of the road the sidewalk is on.
Some residents continued to advocate for the sidewalk to be on the south side, several trustees said that many residents on the south side of Dean Road had been very outspoken against a sidewalk cutting down the size of their lawns, despite the segments in question technically being in the public right of way.
"If it's 18 on one side that are impacted versus the four on the other side, I guess you're trying to opt for the side with less impact on property owners," Baker said.
Better than before, but …
Resident Jean Wells said that putting the sidewalk on the north side would require students going to school along Dean Road, to cross the road twice in order to use the sidewalk, while students coming from the north side already have to cross the street anyway.
"I'm thrilled that there's a sidewalk in, it's way better than what we had before, it just doesn't serve the entire community as well as it could," Wells said.
According to new estimates from Piotrowski, building the sidewalk on the north side will cost about $510,000 before the grant is factored in, which cuts that total down by about $199,000. Putting the sidewalk on the south side of the road will cost about $565,000 before the grant.
Piotrowski said that he had hoped the entire project would be completed this summer and be ready for next school year, but delays in receiving the grant could push the project back one year.
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