Denton city leaders moved two balls down the field Tuesday afternoon, steering the staff toward a solution for a congested part of West Hickory Street and toward a $200 million bond election this fall.
Neither move the Denton City Council made during its work session will be its last on either topic, particularly the bond election. But the city staff is taking steps to execute both plans in the coming months.
West Hickory Street
City Council members agreed with a staff recommendation that shifts some traffic and parking on and around West Hickory Street in exchange for a dedicated bike lane on the street.
In 2012, Denton’s first bike plan called for a continuous and protected lane for cyclists on Hickory Street from one side of town to the other. After the city began reconstructing West Hickory last year, the plan became reality. Once the bike lane reached Avenue B, Fry Street area business owners protested the expected loss of parking spaces.
Business owners wanted to keep the parking spots they’ve had. Bicyclists asked the city to stick to the plan, which would provide a safe, consistent path through the congested area.
For all intents and purposes, reconstruction of West Hickory Street stopped at Avenue B late last year. Atmos Energy had some utility relocation to do, but the city staff wanted to get the bike lane controversy resolved before resuming work.
The council agreed to change traffic on Mulberry Street and Avenue A to one-way between Welch Street and Hickory: west from Welch and north to Hickory, where Avenue A becomes Fry Street. The shift will allow the city’s traffic engineers to add some parking spots and loading zones along Mulberry and Avenue A.
In exchange, the city will continue the dedicated bike lane on the south side of Hickory Street, removing 24 parking spaces along the edge of the University of North Texas campus.
Denton’s bike and pedestrian coordinator, Marc Oliphant, shepherded the updated proposal with the cycling and business communities before recommending it to the City Council.
The other options had their drawbacks and opponents for one reason or the other, “but no one was vehemently against [this one],” Oliphant said.
Construction on West Hickory is expected to resume in June, staff said.
Council members Deb Armintor and Paul Meltzer did not participate in the discussion because one of the options, while not pursued ultimately, would have involved acquiring right of way from UNT. Meltzer’s wife and Armintor work for the university.
November bond election
Council members also agreed to call a bond election in November. During a preliminary discussion on April 1, the staff outlined the public safety and road projects they recommended the council refer to a citizen bond committee.
The staff originally proposed about $190 million in projects over four years. However, council members said they preferred to have the projects roll out over six years, boosting the chance that the tax rate would not increase to cover the increased debt in the coming decade.
The change means the estimated project costs increased to $210 million, the staff said. In addition, a flat tax rate usually means individual property tax bills continue to rise with rising property tax values.
The council is expected to appoint a citizen committee and charge them with reviewing the project list at the next council meeting. Over the summer, the committee would review the projects and draw up the proposition language — likely one proposition for public safety projects and another for road projects.
The council on Tuesday put off deciding whether to include public art in the projects, asking the staff to provide more information on the public art that was funded as part of the 2012 and 2014 bond elections.
The council’s deadline to call the election is in August.