Our View: Matter of ‘fairness’
Posted: January 8, 2013
Though it hardly represents an auspicious start to a long-awaited and much-anticipated endeavor — one seemingly so well-planned and thoroughly vetted — the planter-placement, serpentine walkway/fire lane issue, says City Manager Dale Iman, is a “slight oversight” that can be corrected at minor cost and with “minimal disruption” to the recently initiated Old Town Mall project.
While such words are heartening, it still strikes us as borderline amazing that such matters cropped up at this juncture. As far back as late 2011, or six months before Mr. Iman took over as city manager, concerns about the planters and fire lanes had been raised. Reading the minutes of an October 2011 town-hall meeting about the project, Mr. Iman noticed no less than six queries posited about the serpentine layout that takes fire lanes on the mall remarkably close to some properties.
Specifically, local commercial realtor (and Old Town Development Board member) Stan Carneal noted the fire-lane design all but inhibited the future use of some mall properties as restaurants with outdoor cafes. And, as Mr. Iman told us, mall business owner Mark Stickley raised safety concerns, ones duly acknowledged by the city manager.
Nonetheless, the plan was approved by the OTDB (with Mr. Carneal casting the lone dissenting vote) and then by City Council. But at an open house this past Dec. 5, the issue emerged yet again.
Though Mr. Iman understands council’s initial desire for an alternative to the straight-line “tunnel” or “canopy” approach to trees and planters on the mall, he says the new design is, at once, fraught with both “fairness” and safety issues. Of particular concern is firefighting capability at properties where the fire lane presses too close to a building.
Thus, at a special session tonight, council will revisit the design. Should councilors decide tweaks are warranted, any resultant work change orders, Mr. Iman says, “will not slow the project in any way, bottom line,” particularly given the fact that no surface alterations will be started until the underground utility work is done.
The estimated cost to rework the new planters and redesign the fire lanes? Roughly “$10,000 to $15,000” — or what amounts to pocket change in a $7.1 million project.
Still, we think we speak for one and all when we say it’s our hope that no other such “work changes” are in the offing.