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Board debates senior center safety path costs



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December 08, 2010 - Gabriel L Ouzounian

Review Staff Writer

Orion Township ordinance is clear: All new development in the township must include construction of a safety path on the property.

That was the word from Trustee Neal Porter Monday as the board discussed options for a safety path near the new senior/community center currently going up on Joslyn Road near Clarkston Road.

Porter said he felt the township should have the same expectations of itself as it would any developer.

A representative from Orchard, Hiltz and McCliment, the township's engineering firm, was on hand to summarize options and answer questions for the board.

The first option, which just follows the letter of the ordinance, would run the length of the senior center along Joslyn Road, although the option would not allow the new walkway to connect with existing safety paths in the area.

It would also likely require a retaining wall or fencing due to the topography of the area, making it expensive about $30,000 with fencing or $55,000 with a retaining wall without much benefit in return.

The second option, costing about $55,000, would run from the senior center to the existing path at the intersection of Joslyn Road and Clarkston Road.

While this plan offers more flexibility for pedestrian travel, it would require the consent of the school district as it runs in front of Orion Oaks Elementary School.

Additionally, dangerous situations could arise from the level of school bus traffic during the opening and closing of the school day.

The third option would connect the senior center pathway to the Polly Ann Trail, which runs behind the building.

This path would be aggregate instead of paved, and is by far the cheapest of the three plans at around $15,000.

This option would also be separated from the road making it safer and more scenic.

The downside to this plan would be that it is less directly connected to existing safety paths, and, being stone and gravel, might be less appealing to pedestrians than paved walkways.

This walkway also does not fall into line with township ordinance detailing where safety paths must be built for newly constructed buildings.

A fourth plan , allowable under the ordinance, proposes that in lieu of construction, a sum of money be put into a fund to construct safety paths elsewhere in the township.

Despite comments that suggested an initial consensus, a decision could not be reached due to the differing opinions of the board members.

Some members, including Supervisor Matthew Gibb, were in favor of the third option, because it was the least expensive and arguably the most practical.

However Trustee Neil Porter pointed out that the third option would be in violation of the ordinance set to make sure new structures built within the township have safety paths constructed in the front of the property.

He also pointed out that a failure to build a safety path in line with the ordinance would be violating the law that they themselves put into effect.

Porter said he believed that if option three was selected, than the minimum cost of the regulation size safety path (in this case options one and two) should be donated by the township to a fund that would help build safety paths elsewhere in the community as detailed by the fourth option. Porter believed this only fair since option three does not cover the ordinance regulated location for safety paths.

Gibb argued in favor of option three as it meant that less money had to be paid out of the township treasury, yet Porter worried about this line of thought, pointing out that this method would let the township supersede its own law by also making the path cost less than it should and be built in the wrong place.

Additionally, citizen Susan William argued in favor of option two because of the belief that community between children at Orion Oaks Elementary and seniors at the senior center would be beneficial to both parties.

Trustee Joann Van Tassel quickly pointed out her concern with the second option, citing dangerous traffic conditions for not only seniors, but the children of the school as well.

Finally, after two motions failed to pass, the board decided that additional research and discussion was needed before a decision could be made. Another attempt to resolve the issue will be conducted at the next board meeting.

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