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Franklin takes a walk on the urban side

City will at least consider sidewalk and street plan

March 6, 2012

Franklin - Sidewalks in the suburbs?

Yes, says John Michlig, a member of the Franklin Trails Committee and "Sprawled Out" blogger.

Michlig told the Common Council on Tuesday night that the city needs "connectivity," where sidewalks allow students to walk to school, and streets are more than a congested fast-track with a means from here to there.

Starting an advisory group

Michlig made a pitch to establish a Complete Streets and Connectivity Advisory Board, and council members approved that request unanimously.

That new board would be charged with discussing creating safe roads and streets, gathering input from all stakeholders - seniors, the disabled, the schools, the city's park personnel and its engineering department, fire and police representatives and builders.

It would also be charged developing a citywide plan and enforceable ordinance, governed by the council or Plan Commission.

Michlig made and was granted the request for a new board after a presentation on Complete Streets, a nationwide movement to make streets safer and improve "walkability."

Value-added idea

The reasons to do so, Michlig said, are many, and include increased property value.

He said the value of a home can increase up to $3,000, depending on the market, when a community has a street network in place. And it's an idea that has the backing of the AARP, the Metropolitan Builders Association and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

"Developers like it because it's front-end and easy for them to understand," he told the council. "It's obviously something that school districts like."

Safe and practical advantages

The idea behind it is to connect areas with sidewalks and create walking paths, which he said increases safety and promotes economic development. He said it also helps maintain local control, as the state of Wisconsin has had a Complete Streets law in place since 2009.

What that means, he said, that if the state or county wanted, for example, a 45-mph speed limit on a street under its jurisdiction, the city's ordinance, which may stipulate a 30-mph speed limit in the area because of its residential flavor, would supersede it.

"If you don't have an ordinance in place, you're the one who gets the quick and dirty," Michlig said.

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