SCOTTSBLUFF — The Scottsbluff City Council chamber was filled to capacity as affected residents voiced their concerns about the city’s plan to extend the Monument Valley Pathway North project through their neighborhoods north of Highway 26.
The pathway project dates back to 2010. The first public hearing was scheduled in 2013. The 5.8-mile pathway would extend from Riverside Park north to 37th Street (south of the Regional West Medical Center) and east to Western Nebraska Community College and the nearby business complex.
The project would include a pedestrian bridge over Highway 26 with an estimated total cost of $5.2 million. The majority of the funding would come from the state and federal governments.
But the landscape has changed since the initial design, as more housing popped up and other lots were rezoned for residential purposes.
Kevin and Angela Figg, who live on Hillcrest Drive, said that while they support the pathway, it would be better for the route to extend up Fifth Avenue north rather than through their neighborhoods.
“We purchased a home there about a year ago,” Kevin said. “If the city acquires our land, it will take away about a third of our yard. Plus the security and privacy of our neighborhood would be lost. It’s a real concern having a pathway in my yard that anyone can access.”
After meeting with several of his neighbors, Kevin said none of them knew the acquisition process was coming.
“Times have changed over the past seven years and I think we all got lost in the shuffle,” Kevin Figg said. “If I knew the pathway was going through our yard, we never would have bought the property.”
Mark Sitzman also owns several properties in the area. He told council members he stands to lose nine residential lots that were designed to be 120 feet deep. The city wants to acquire 60 feet of those lots.
“I’m very disappointed with the communication we received from the city,” he said. “I regularly do business with the city and they never told me about this. I think this project is a want, not a need.”
Representatives from the Stony Creek Homeowners Association were also there with concerns the pathway’s route comes very close to the back of the homeowners’ properties. With many elderly residents, many of them wouldn’t feel safe with public access so close to their properties.
Others told the council they should move the pathway back to its original alignment along Fifth Avenue, rather than going through residential areas.
After the meeting, City Manager Nathan Johnson said the project is in its late stages. However, the city would take the concerns under advisement.
“The construction plans are scheduled to go out for big in August,” Johnson said. “We’ll have to evaluate everything to see if the plans can be readjusted, but with the timelines involved, we would also be jeopardizing state and federal funding that will pay for most of the project.”
He said that the city’s share of the pathway cost would be about a quarter of the $5.2 million cost. That in itself is a pretty good indicator of the support the state and federal governments have for the project.
“If the city had to be responsible for the entire project, it couldn’t be done,” Johnson said. “And if we decide not to move forward, there are still costs that have to be paid for work done so far.”
If the pathway alignment were to change, the city would need to negotiate with property owners and go back through the same process.
“At some point in time, you have to draw a line and figure out whether or not to move forward,” Johnson said. “That’s where we’re at today.”
Resident concerns still need to be evaluated before the city decides what that path forward will be.