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Approved Amendments to Marion County's Sidewalk Ordinances

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Development Commission (the "MDC") introduced amendments to Marion County Zoning Ordinance to address a perceived need for greater accessibility and "walkability" in Indianapolis. The MDC's amendments included sidewalks as part of the development standards for Commercial, Industrial, Multi-Family, and Special Districts (including such uses as churches, schools, hospitals, and parks). Previously, the only ordinances requiring developers to install sidewalks were in single-family residential subdivisions and mobile home parks.

Sidewalks are now required on all interior and bordering streets, regardless if such streets are public or private, and must connect with any adjoining sidewalks that are present. Sidewalks are required to be installed in conjunction with all new construction in the current and expanded zoning districts outlined above. Furthermore, in instances where additional development is undertaken in connection with an existing development, the developer may choose between installing new sidewalks and making a payment to the City's fund for future sidewalk construction.

The approved sidewalk amendments not only expand sidewalk requirements to more zoning districts; they also amend the general sidewalk requirements for the City as a whole. The approved amendments increase the size of sidewalks from four feet wide to five feet wide. Additionally, to address the fact that the previous sidewalk ordinances made no mention of a "minimum clear width" (a measurement which contemplates items in the walkway such as utility poles and signage), the approved amendments require a four foot minimum clear width to reduce potential bottlenecks on the sidewalks.

In addition to the size of the sidewalks, the approved amendments require ramps at curbed intersections or "blended transitions" to connect the level of the sidewalk to the level of the crosswalk. An additional element of the amendments is to mandate that all new sidewalks be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (more commonly known as the "ADA").

The MDC specifically tailored the ordinance to strike a balance between the MDC's goal of making the City more walkable, while also taking into consideration the needs of developers for added flexibility in implementing the new requirements into their developments. The ordinance modifications were approved by the City-County Council on April 14, 2008.

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