The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department occasionally gets requests from developers and property owners for waivers from requirements to put in sidewalks. But no one from the department can recall ever getting a request such as the one in front of the Planning Commission on Wednesday.
A group of residents in the Hamann Meadows neighborhood near 76th Street and Pioneers Boulevard went in front of the commission to ask for a waiver so they could remove a sidewalk the developer already had installed.
The sidewalk runs through a common area that backs up to several residents' homes and connects a sidewalk that runs along 76th Street to one of the city's bike trails.
More than 30 residents signed a petition asking for permission to remove the recently installed sidewalk, with their biggest concerns being about safety and privacy.
Marc Schniederjans, who committed to pay for the removal himself if the waiver were granted, said that because of the elevation and grade of the sidewalk, anyone walking or biking on it could see into the basements and main levels of most of the homes.
"I think there's a serious safety issue, and I think there's a serious violation of privacy issue," Schniederjans said.
He said the residents weren't told when they purchased their homes that a sidewalk was to be built in the area.
"We feel we've been cheated," Schniederjans said.
City planner Brian Will told commissioners, however, that the sidewalk has been shown in plans for the development since its inception several years ago.
Commissioner Wendy Francis said she sympathized with residents, especially since the real estate agent for the development apparently had been unaware of the sidewalk plans.
But Francis said there was "no excuse" for the homeowners not checking out publicly available plans before purchasing homes in the development.
Commissioner Jeanelle Lust said she, too, sympathized with the neighbors. But she pointed out that it's an important city policy goal to have connectivity between neighborhoods whenever possible.
"I really think this is actually a benefit to the neighborhood as a whole," she said.
Francis, Lust and the other three commissioners present Wednesday voted unanimously to deny the waiver.
The decision is considered final unless the residents appeal to the City Council.