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Sidewalk along Bethel Creek road draws few complaints


Despite some early resistance from homeowners who didn’t want their front yards disturbed, city officials say they have received few complaints about the new sidewalk being installed along Indian River Drive East and Live Oak Road, a continuous roadway with two names that curves from State Road A1A near Jaycee Park to Beachland Boulevard at the base of the Barber Bridge.

In fact, Vero Beach City Councilman Val Zudans, who lives on Indian River Drive East, said his neighbors have told him they’re pleased with how the project is turning out.

“Everyone I’ve talked to is happy,” Zudans said. “The city, and especially the workers, deserve a lot of credit. They’re doing an outstanding job. They’re paying attention to detail and making it look nice.”

City Manager Jim O’Connor said the project, which began last month, should be complete by the end of August, when the newly built sections of sidewalk will connect with existing short stretches at each end of the residential road and provide a safe walkway through the picturesque island neighborhood.

When the sidewalk is finished, pedestrians won't have to walk in the narrow roadway, which has seen an increase in vehicular traffic in recent years as motorists began to use it as a cut-through to avoid backups at the intersection of A1A and Beachland, especially during Vero Beach’s busy winter months.

The city responded to complaints about the traffic increase, which homeowners said threatened the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and pets, by posting “NO THRU TRAFFIC” signs at the neighborhood’s entryways at A1A and Beachland. Vero Beach police also cracked down on speeders along the roadway, particularly between Greytwig Road and Mockingbird Drive.

But when a majority of homeowners along the Live Oak-Indian River Drive East corridor voted in favor of a sidewalk, O’Connor took the proposal to the City Council, which approved the $220,000 project.

“Back when we first started talking to people in that neighborhood and asked if they wanted a sidewalk, more than 50 percent said they wanted it,” O’Connor said, referring to a 2015 survey sent out by the city. “But when we came out with our plan, we had more people against it.”

That’s because the city’s initial plan put the sidewalk on the north side of Live Oak and the west side of Indian River Drive, and homeowners on those sides of the road didn’t want their property disturbed.

Also, the plan called for a 12-foot setback from the roadway and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk, and the homeowners were reluctant to part with that much of their property – even though the land they viewed as part of their yard was actually part of the city-owned right-of-way.

“Nobody wanted it in their front yard, which is not unusual when you do sidewalks,” O’Connor said. “Some people feel like you’re taking away their property. Others don’t want people walking in front of their house.”

So the plan was amended to include only a 5-foot setback and 5-foot-wide sidewalk, which proved to be enough to satisfy the opponents of the city’s initial proposal.

Sidewalk proponents began gathering homeowners’ signatures and presented O’Connor with a petition in favor of the sidewalk earlier this year.

 “It’s a pretty road, and a lot of walkers, runners and bikers like to go through there,” O’Connor said. “And the makeup of that neighborhood is getting younger and more active. So all that, combined with the increase in traffic, convinced people that the sidewalk was needed.”

O’Connor said the only complaint he has received since the project began came when heavy rains forced a work stoppage, after the ground had been dug up.

“One person called and wanted to know when we were going to fill it in,” he said. “But you can’t pour concrete in the rain.”

The other calls, O’Connor said, were from residents thrilled by the look of the already-completed sections of the new sidewalk.

“Everything worked the way it was supposed to,” Zudans said. “The city came up with a plan, got feedback from the neighborhood, and then addressed the concerns raised by the people.

“Now we’re getting something we need, something that will make the neighborhood safer,” he added.
“The sidewalk on my street is in my front yard, and I think the city did an awesome job with it.”