City-mandated sidewalks will not appear in Highland Acres any time soon, as residents of the northwest Bismarck subdivision were granted an extension by the city commission on Tuesday, allowing efforts to continue in achieving historic designation for the neighborhood.
In July, the city mailed letters mandating sidewalks to residents living along East Coulee Road, North Parkview Drive, Parkview Drive and Crescent Lane.
Such infrastructure could disqualify the neighborhood from receiving a historic designation, according to resident Bruce Whittey, who appeared before the commission in July 2017 to request a delay in sidewalk construction. At the time, Highland Acres residents were granted an 18-month postponement.
With the January 2019 deadline fast approaching, Whittey appeared before the commission on Tuesday to request an extension due to unforeseen circumstances.
In order to achieve the designation, Whittey and a group of volunteers must complete an architectural/historic survey on hundreds of sites. Initially thought to be 141 sites, the project grew by 230, for a total of 371 sites.
“In late fall, we learned that our desire to create a historic district that could be added to in the future would not be accepted under the national plan, meaning that an additional 230 sites would have to be added to our 141 sites that already existed and that we discussed about with the commission back in July,” Whittey said.
In addition, summer interns meant to assist with the surveys “never materialized” and Whittey’s mentor went on active military duty Aug. 1. The North Dakota State Historical Society, city staff and numerous Highland Acres residents have been assisting with the project, Whittey said.
Commissioner Nancy Guy suggested the city become a Certified Local Government, which is a unit of local government that has met the requirements of, and has applied for, certification to become a fully participating partner in national and state historic preservation programs.
The chief elected official of the CLG would appoint a Historic Preservation Commission, which would assist groups, such as Whittey's, in applying for historic designations, Guy said.
Commissioner Shawn Oban said he’s concerned about the safety of the neighborhood’s children who walk to school.
“When you have significant storms, like we did a couple years ago, and streets don’t get cleared and widened fast enough because there’s so much snow … you have kids walking not only on the streets, but narrow streets,” he said, noting he “loves” the Highland Acres neighborhood and the work being done to preserve it and achieve historic designation.
“Maybe there’s enough Highland Acres neighborhood folks, here, that if we all just promise to make sure you watch out for those kids on those streets when they’re walking to school, we can be safe,” he said. “But that’s a struggle for me.”
The commission approved an extension, with a new deadline of February 2020. City staff also received authorization to research becoming a Certified Local Government.