THE VILLAGE, Okla. (KFOR) — The battle over a pedestrian-bicycle trail proposal in The City of The Village continued Monday night, amongst a council meeting to discuss a $12 million TIF plan to improve the city.
The grand vision includes a dog park, plaza, community center, pavilion, grass areas, and playgrounds.
It also includes a pedestrian-bicycle trail, which has been a point of controversy for months. It’s proposed to connect Vinyard Blvd. and Village Dr., cutting straight through the Hawthorne neighborhood.
Some members of the neighborhood say the 10-foot-wide trail, which would be for pedestrians and bicyclists, would be dangerous for them to walk on because they could get hit by bikes.
“For safety, I still don’t think it’ll be a good idea,” said resident Linda Schoenhals. “There will be bicycle clubs that come through and I don’t think anyone can control their speed.”
Stephen Melsh is leading a group of residents in the neighborhood. He told the Village Council Monday that they have accrued a five-figure legal defense fund to the sue the City of the Village if necessary.
He is pointing to legal documentation, a “Permanent Public Open Space Easement,” interpreting it to say that the Hawthorne Homeowners Association (HOA) owns the land and as grantors, they’d have to permit the City of the Village to make any changes.
“They seem to be very stuck on the fact that they can just do whatever they wish with our land and they can’t,” he said.
Assistant City of the Village Attorney Jeff Sabin tells KFOR their interpretation of the document is different. He said the City reserves the right to create an open space available to the public on the land, and that the HOA does not have exclusive rights to make changes.
City of the Village Mayor Sonny Wilkinson said they’ve worked with architects to make the trail more safe. He explained the trail will curve and meander, and also have a lot of trees and benches, all with the aim of creating a calming atmosphere and environment that will visually cue bikers to be careful on the trail. He believes the trail will be safe.
“It’s a calmer environment and will signal to the people who ride through there that, ‘Oh, I’ve kind of changed where I am, and I need to pay attention a little more,’” he said. “It’s not a straight path. It won’t be an Autobahn for bikes. It’s not going to be so wide that you’re going to have four or five bicycles wide riding through there like it’s the Tour de France.”
The HOA as an entity has not taken a public or official stance on the matter. Residents like Melsh are speaking on behalf of some seniors who live there, but not the HOA. Melsh plans to regroup with those who don’t like the trail to decide what to do next. One possibility is to hire an attorney.
Mayor Wilkinson believes the final TIF development plan, including details for the trail, will be voted on by city council in October.