By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
At a recent December workshop, residents along Wing Avenue got a little bit of good news — the city would defer most of the costs for public utilities.
In November, the Kentwood City Commission approved an amendment allowing for a farmhouse exemption with a property owner only having to pay the first 125 feet of frontage for installation of water and sewer. The rest would be deferred if the parcel were split in the future.
“Currently, many of these homes along Wing Avenue were looking at upwards to $90,000 to hook up,” aid Kentwood City Engineer Tim Bradshaw. “It brought the cost of hooking up to sewer and water down to a more reasonable price and made it comparable to having a well or septic.”
It was noted at a Dec. 5 workshop that based on City of Grand Rapids’s current rates, the connection costs for a 125-foot frontage would be about $17,050 for sewer and $15,975 for water. Those costs are only paid upon connection. According to Building Advisor, the cost of installing water and septic can be $20,000 or more.
Another cost concern was that of sidewalk and storm sewer construction. The City Commission also recently amended the city policy to no longer assess for those items if the improvements are included in the final design of Wing Avenue. Residents, however; would be required to maintain the sidewalks running along their property.
Bradshaw said at the recent workshop, residents seemed to respond well to the changes since it did reduce some of the cost concerns, however; there are still several other issues residents have including keeping the natural feel and look of the road. Impact on the trees and the natural features lead several residents to petition the city to consider designating Wing Avenue from 52nd Street to 60th Street as a Natural Beauty Road in accordance to the guidelines established by the state legislature in 1995.
Michigan’s Natural Beauty Road Act is designed to identify and preserve certain county-local roads that have unusual or outstanding natural beauty by virtue of native vegetation or the natural features. There are 34 roads in Kent County with the designation, none of which are in Kentwood.
There are several requirements including that the speed be not more than 35 mph. Wing Avenue’s current speed limit — which is determined by a Michigan State Law — is 40 mph.
The designation would not prevent tree removal when necessary for the safety and protection of the traveling public and vehicles, including improvements to the roadway and for public utility construction crossing Wing Avenue. Tree removal would not be allowed for construction of public utility alongside the road.
The Kentwood City Commission will consider the Natural Beauty Road petition at its Feb. 7 meeting. This is after the presentation by the consulting firm Fleis & VandenBrink on its final corridor study which is scheduled for Jan. 17. Fleis & VandenBrink have been tasked to study several items including public utility planning, road construction, and non-motorized needs such as sidewalk, bike lanes, etc.
At the December workshop, the consulting company indicated it would likely recommend the construction of 11-foot lanes striped at 10 feet for safety, better speed control, reduce cost and reduce tree impact over the standard 12-foot width. Also, it was indicated to use the speed of 40 mph to improve sight distances. The firm was still reviewing curb versus ditches and sidewalks/non-motorized trails.
The City Commission is expected to make a final decision on the Wing Avenue plans at its Feb. 21 meeting. Once the final scope has been determined, engineering and design work will begin. Bradshaw said the city has targeted the spring of 2018 to start construction.