HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Holland is expanding its use of snowmelt technology to include the sidewalk of a residential neighborhood. Homeowners will be on the hook for part of the cost — and some aren’t happy about it.
Parts of downtown Holland have had heated sidewalks for nearly three decades. It’s been touted as a big draw for tourists and a boost for businesses. City officials say the neighborhood expansion is the first of its kind locally.
The project has been in the works for more than a year and will include sidewalks and driveway approaches on the west side of Central Avenue from 21st Street to 12th Street. The original goal was to connect Evergreen Commons, a senior activity center, with downtown.
The snowmelt has already been installed in some areas. Some stretches are still under construction and the work hasn’t even started yet in other areas. Still, city officials say the work will be finished by winter.
24 Hour News talked with a couple who lives along the affected stretch. The pair wanted to remain anonymous, but said they aren’t happy about the project.
“I just think there’s been kind of a lack of transparency. We attended one meeting. There were several others. But we just felt from the beginning that the decision was made already,” the residents told 24 Hour News 8.
They also don’t think they should be paying part of the price to heat the sidewalks.
“Because this is not something we requested,” they said. “If this something we wanted to do, we’d have incurred the cost on our own.”
The project has been fueled by a large donation from the Heart of Holland group, which works with the senior center.
Originally, the city was going to have residents pay half maintenance and operation costs for the snowmelt in the sidewalks and driveway approaches along their properties. But after hearing concerns from locals, the Holland City Council changed the assessment so residents will only pay the costs for their driveway approaches — 42 cents per square foot. For some, it will only cost $25 per year, but for others, the bill could rise to $200 annually.
There are about 25 properties along the affected stretch. Many are rentals, so landlords will incur the costs. Tenants who spoke with 24 Hour News 8 said they were not aware of any immediate changes to their rent.
City officials contend that there are long-term benefits for residents, including a possible growth in property.
“The first thing I’d say is let’s go through a couple winters. Let’s see how it really does benefit you, ’cause you may see a benefit that you didn’t before that your sidewalk is always clear,” Amy Sasamoto, the Interim DDA Coordinator for Holland, told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.
Another concern for homeowners is that the donation from the Heart of Holland will only help subsidize costs for the next four winters. It’s unclear who will pay for it after that and whether or not residents will be billed even more.
“I think right now (that) concern is justified — because we don’t have a policy in place,” Sasamoto said.
She said officials are working on that next step.
In the meantime, the current assessment still isn’t a done deal. The City Council will make a final decision Wednesday night at its 7 p.m. meeting. City officials encourage residents to come and speak up if they have concerns.