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Sidewalk policy steps forward

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Commissioners Court voted on Tuesday to move forward with the development of a potential revenue stream aimed at filling in the county’s sidewalk gap. While the county has rules requiring sidewalk construction, developers often bypass them with variance requests, often in cases where no curb exists and a sidewalk would be a de facto widening of the street. Rather than let the developers get off scot-free, the new proposal would introduce a fee-in-lieu system by which participants would pay into a fund based on the square footage of sidewalk they don’t build. That fund could then be used to construct missing sidewalks in other parts of the precinct in which the fee was collected, according to Anna Bowlin, a long-range planner in the Transportation and Natural Resources Department. Noting that the county’s proposed bond referendum includes $8 million for sidewalk projects, Commissioner Brigid Shea suggested that the eventual fee be high enough to make developers seriously consider not sticking the county with future infrastructure costs. “This doesn’t get cheaper over time,” Shea said. The court approved a preliminary version of the policy on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Gerald Daugherty against it. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said she would bring back a more complete version to weigh in October following talks with the city of Austin.

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