The Rolla City Council passed an ordinance amending the city code to clarify the requirements for the construction of sidewalks in the city.

The ordinance was initially introduced to the City Council after the Development Review Committee discussed an amendment to the city’s existing planning and zoning regulations for sidewalks.

The committee suggested a text amendment to the planning and zoning regulations with the addition of a new section to specify when sidewalks are required as many sidewalks lead nowhere and are unobtainable in the city.

An ordinance was prepared and reviewed by Rolla’s Community Development Department and the Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing and recommended the City Council approve the ordinance, Rolla City Planner Tom Coots said when he introduced the ordinance for its final reading at the council’s October meeting.

Coots said the ordinance included a text amendment to the city’s planning and zoning regulations for subdivision improvements and added a new section on development requirements to specify when sidewalks are required in the city.

Coots said while the city’s planning and zoning regulations had only required the installation of sidewalks when the property was subdivided, the ordinance requires sidewalks with development and redevelopment in addition to the subdivision of property. Exceptions and the ability to receive waivers are provided in the ordinance to allow flexibility where sidewalks are not needed or impractical.

The ordinance clarifies the required width of sidewalks to be more appropriate in particular situations depending on circumstances such as zoning, roadway classification and the length of cul de sacs, Coots said. Commercial and dense areas will be required to have wider sidewalks on both sides of the street, and lower density areas will only be required to have a 5-foot wide sidewalk on one side of the street. Some streets aren't required to have any sidewalk per the ordinance, Coots said.

The ordinance also provides flexibility for encroachments and widening for trails. Coots said, most areas throughout the city have an underlying sidewalk network, but many gaps need to be filled in, and there are still many streets that lack sidewalks but need them.

The city is currently working toward filling the gaps, repairing existing sidewalks and constructing curb ramps, and the ordinance should allow for the logical and orderly construction of sidewalks where they are needed, Coots added.

“Having proper sidewalk management assists with pedestrian mobility, and will help close gaps existing in sidewalk system,” Coots said. “When there are gaps they discourage walking and can impede people with limited mobility, and development or redevelopment could help close gaps in the system and help save the city money.”

The City Council members voted unanimously to pass the ordinance to amend Chapter 42 – Planning and Zoning, Sections 42-29, 43-233 and 42-233.1 of the city code.