What about sidewalks?

Sidewalks in Millcreek — mostly the lack thereof — have been discussed by its governing bodies for many years. No specific policies or ordinances have ever been formally adopted. Piecemeal approaches over the years have shown a lack of vision. How does our new city intend to approach the issue?

A bit of background first: The Millcreek area was rural at its outset, with water mills, timber cutting, and agriculture being the primary activities. Post WWII, when houses began to take over, cars were big and walking wasn’t important. Most neighborhoods were built with narrow rights-of-way and no sidewalks. Even major roads like 33rd South were ruled by cars.

Over the years, attitudes began to shift. People wanted to walk — to get places, to exercise, to walk their dogs. The County (of which Millcreek was a part) began to install sidewalks when safety issues arose and as engineering would allow. Since the availability of public funds is always a limiting factor, the County also passed ordinances requiring private owners of new developments and other types of projects to install sidewalks as a condition to getting a building permit.
But an exception to the County’s requirements for private sidewalk installation could be granted for varying reasons, including “aesthetics”. “Aesthetics”, of course, is a concept susceptible to broad interpretation and many differing opinions. Thus, the exception decisions, made by many different individual officials over the years, were haphazard, often guided by each official’s general attitude about sidewalks. Many professed a liking for the “rural” feeling of Millcreek and were willing to grant exceptions, while others wanted sidewalks in every neighborhood. This process resulted in a patchwork of sidewalks throughout Millcreek, and “sidewalks to nowhere” became a common sight throughout the community.

At this point, nearly 60% of Millcreek has no sidewalks. Click on the map below to see where they are and where they aren’t located. A lack of vision about where, when, and even why, sidewalks should be built resulted in our piecemeal sidewalk situation.

Sidewalk locations in Millcreek, Utah

In late 2014, at the request of the Millcreek Township Planning Commission, Salt Lake County began a year-long process to study the problems and come up with a master sidewalk plan. In December 2015, after completing the sidewalk survey above and conducting many meetings with the community and its representatives, the County completed a draft of a proposed guidance manual, entitled “Walk Millcreek”. By that time, however, Millcreek’s residents had voted to incorporate. Work on the manual did not go any further and was never adopted.

The draft manual will be reviewed as a part of creating Millcreek’s new general plan. While the vision for our community is being developed over the next 18 months, we intend to adopt guiding principles to help resolve the sidewalk issues our past has created.

Until our general plan is complete and implementing ordinances are enacted, private owners are still required by Millcreek ordinances to install sidewalks under certain circumstances. Mayor Silvestrini decides the exception requests.

As for publicly-funded sidewalks, our engineers have created a capital improvement plan that includes a list of proposed sidewalks. We are in the process of prioritizing projects. If you want to get a sidewalk onto the list, fill out this form and send it in. Our engineers will analyze the street based on the number of vehicles on the road, number of pedestrians, schools in the area and the accident rate. The higher the project is on the priority list, the sooner the project can be completed when funds become available.

We have also recently enacted an ordinance for a 50/50 program . That will allow us to set an annual amount we can make available to match private citizens’ funding. We haven’t set up the rules yet for applying and qualifying, but will let you know when we do.

This is a stubborn problem, but we will find ways to solve it. In the meantime, we’ll be asking for your input and your patience. And you walkers, be careful out there!