Officials interrupted budget talks Monday to drop a controversial bicycle and pedestrian project along Pinehurst Road.
A heated July 14 town hall meeting apparently rattled the commissioners — all of whom were present.
The residents "are very angry," Commissioner Julie Scales said. "They viewed this as causing another traffic issue. ... We shouldn’t get ahead of our community. I always say I wasn’t elected to be God. We need to hear what our people want. I’d like to move into an era when there’s not so much oil and cauldrons — or whatever — ."
At the July 14 meeting, officials unveiled the Pinehurst Road part of tentative plans for an 8-foot-wide bike and pedestrian path along some of Dunedin’s busiest roads: Pinehurst, Michigan Avenue and San Christopher Drive. The residents in attendance for the unveiling of the Pinehurst Road portion, however, were vehemently opposed.
The city project was intended to provide safe routes for bikes and pedestrians and to promote healthy living. It was to be funded, at least in part, by a $180,000 federal Safe Routes to Schools grant, and was reviewed by a team of stakeholders that included a city bike advisory committee before being unveiled for public comment.
Many residents, mostly of retirement age, questioned the fiscal responsibility of a project costing a projected $466,000, and scoffed at an apparent child safety guise.
“We don’t see any kids riding up and down" Pinehurst, Steven Nelson said. “So that’s a B.S. reason.”
The Safe Routes to School grant would have covered two-thirds the cost, plan director Doug Hutchens said at the July 14 meeting. Now the city must figure out where else — another related project, another neighborhood — to allocate those funds so that it still falls in line with expectations of the grant.
Residents even hurled loaded questions at city officials. One resident inquired as to whether or not the meeting was being recorded so elected officials could revisit their promise to hear the community’s concerns.
The dissension in the audience came predominantly from residents who were not bicyclists. But one resident, Klaus Schurr, is a cyclist.
“Pinehurst is not good for road biking,” Schurr said. “Kids should use the sidewalk.”
Schurr was also concerned, along with other residents, that an 8-foot-wide lane would encourage the use of recently-permitted , something most Pinehurst residents were against, more than the use of bicycles.
Scales said on Monday that idea didn't mesh well with her child safety concerns.
The commission unanimously scrapped the project Monday morning but agreed to move forward with the city's master pedestrian plan — rather than a "project" — so that they can incorporate public input earlier in the process.
Residents and local officials have "all of the and how they seemed to just throw it out on us, and I think the folks on Pinehurst took it that way, too," Mayor Dave Eggers said during budget talks Monday, conjuring a comparison to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection plan to allow RV camping on the island.
"No matter how well-intentioned we may have been," he said, "we didn't get the input."