City committee recommends policy making it easier to close problem-plagued walkways in Saskatoon

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A city committee is recommending City Council approve a motion to ask administration to draft a new policy that enables walkways to be closed more easily.

The motion was put forward by Coun. Randy Donauer during Monday’s meeting of the Standing Policy Committee on Transportation.

During the meeting, Donauer cited several negative experiences of some residents living adjacent to walkways, including crime, vandalism, graffiti and safety issues.

“This is not just a quality of life issue. For some it’s a safety issue,” Donauer said, adding that while an entire neighbourhood may ask for a walkway to be closed, he feels the city has abandoned the homeowners who may live right next to them.

“Rather than basing it on community support, I actually think we need to start basing this walkway closure and these policies more on the experiences of the homeowner, and our ability or inability to remediate them,” Donauer said.

Councillor Hillary Gough said she was not sure if Donauer’s motion struck the right balance on how to handle the issue of troublesome walkways, but said the city has not reached it either.

“I’m not keen on an emphasis on closure, I think there is more we could do operationally. And I think that it may mean thinking differently about our level of responsibility to certain pieces of infrastructure, and the impacts of them on adjacent residents,” Gough said.

City administration offered several recommendations including more checks for graffiti as part of maintenance work, replacing the current closure policy with a petition model, signage and providing support materials encouraging residents to report crime.

However, Donauer felt the recommendations fell short of what may be needed to address the problems with walkways that are tied to negative activity.

“I don’t think that most of the recommendations before us today actually deal with the concerns the residents are facing. This is a city amenity but were not, or were not able to take responsibility for it.”

The committee's recommendation to ask administration to draw up a policy enabling walkways to be closed more easily still needs to be approved by city council.