JUNEAU -- Residents saddled with paying for new sidewalks on a dead-end street came with an attorney Tuesday night to the Juneau Common Council meeting seeking a reprieve.
Common council members approved the reconstruction of Downie Drive and Leonard Avenue -- with sidewalks -- following a public hearing in February.
About a dozen citizens at Tuesday's meeting were unanimous in their opposition to the inclusion of sidewalks in the $487,800 total construction project cost. The sidewalk portion totals $77,700, which is nearly 16 percent of the total project. Sidewalks are the only component of the reconstruction where individual homeowners must pay the entire cost. The property owners said the sidewalks would be seldom used being on a cul-de-sac.
Jeffrey and Jacqueline Slayton of 118 Leonard Ave. in Juneau attended Tuesday's meeting with their attorney Nolan Franti of the Madden Law Group. The Slaytons have already brought a suit against the city last month.
"I talked to some of my neighbors who are going to be moving. You're forcing people that have lived there for 30-40 years to move. And for what? Concrete that is on a dead-end street," said Jeffrey Slayton. "I have a son and this puts him at high risk. It could be a neighbor who runs him over because we have to adjust to a neighborhood with sidewalks. I haven't lived in one for 15 years. That's why I moved here. If a realtor told me a year ago I probably would not have bought that house."
Costs per homeowner range from $3,000 to $8,000.
Franti told the council that if the matter was not decided Tuesday night, it would have to be decided in a courtroom. The council went into closed session for 40 minutes to discuss the matter and emerged without taking any action.
Juneau Mayor Dan Wegener noted that the project could be reopened by a motion from an alderman who voted with the majority. No motions were made.
The Slaytons filed a lawsuit against the city last month about the project that will remake Downie Drive and Leonard Avenue with new curb and gutter, driveway aprons and new sidewalks.
In the complaint, filed in Dodge County Circuit Court, the Slaytons said they are concerned the sidewalks would create a safety risk for them, their children and the elderly. They said they chose the neighborhood because it didn't have sidewalks and that the changes would not benefit their property value.
The suit also claims residents received unequal treatment and exceptions and that the special assessment is illegal.
The Slaytons are seeking unspecified damages. They are also seeking the special assessment to be declared illegal or that it be modified, Franti said.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Franti wrote, "The city's decision is disappointing, although perhaps not surprising at this point. The Slaytons are prepared to move forward with their appeal of the special assessment. It's clear that the city did not make appropriate findings that the special assessment, and especially the sidewalk, was actually going to benefit the Slaytons' property. We are asking the court to find that the city did not follow the property procedures here and that the assessment should be voided, or at the very least modified, to comply with the law."