Why must the City of Carmel insist on building new streets and roads to connect all of our neighborhoods when many residents would prefer privacy?

As we continue to develop our City for the future, one key fundamental of city living is how our public street network connects each of us to all of us. Our public street network really is the foundation upon which Carmel has been built; facilitating the movement of people and goods; the life blood of neighborhoods, of commerce, and of public safety.

It is important to remember that making street connections is an important community matter. All residents are affected when streets are connected, from changing traffic patterns and improved mobility for cars and bikes, from the opening up of new walking options and from improved efficiency for services of all types, including school busses, snow plows, mail delivery and trash/recycling pick-up. When public streets are not connected those benefits of improved mobility are not realized.

It is important to remember that making street connections is an important community matter.

When a public street is built or stubbed to a property line – such as Deer Ridge Drive in Valleybrook, Sherman Drive in Johnson Addition, or Otto Lane in Jacksons Grant – it is an intentional decision made by a Plan Commission (and City Council) with an eye to the future. Although stubbed streets and stub connections are a matter of ordinance; both the stubbed street, and the follow-thru of connecting it when that time comes, they represent good planning that has to be protected by ordinance.

Stubbed streets are connections promised to residents of continued, improved mobility which should not be looked upon lightly. That a few affected residents raise their voices, hoping to prevent the connection of a public street out of fear or because they like their ‘quiet place,’ is expected and understandable. That they ask, or demand, that City officials place personal interest over our community’s mobility, other resident’s safety, and against previous promises made is a challenge that is troubling and disappointing.

When new streets and connections are proposed, they are reviewed for safety as part of the City’s technical review process; looked at by City officials in Engineering, Planning, Fire, and Police to name a few. If the elimination of street connection is a result, it unfortunately does not mean that new traffic and delivery vehicles go away; instead they will have to find alternate routes on existing streets. Failing to connect new streets to our existing network does not eliminate new traffic, it simply pushes it to other locations, redistributing traffic onto nearby existing streets and preventing the effectiveness new network options can and should provide.

We asked Mike Hollibaugh, our Director of Community Services and an expert in city planning, for his thoughts on the philosophy behind this topic. Here are a few of his thoughts:

“The freedom each of us have to move about using the public street network, whether by foot, bike or car, should not be taken for granted. Our personal mobility, i.e. the freedom to move about in all forms, must be remembered, respected and treasured as everyone’s right. All residents, old and new, should be offered the same advantages of free movement and network connection, whether by foot, car or other means – which includes safely expanding our street network with new streets and street connections when new development occurs.

“The way in which a city grows and changes is not a question people often think about until forced to do so when a new project is on their doorstep or happening down the street. It is something that City officials and public safety personnel are always evaluating and regularly working on. City decision makers are allowed but one opportunity to make the correct decisions when a new project is proposed and presented. Ordinary issues such as stubbed streets and street connectivity deserve full attention and thoughtful discussion, as do larger more obvious transportation or design related matters.

“It is interesting that traffic movement on stub streets is not thought about more – because every trip down a stubbed street requires a return trip, down and back without options; every family trip; every package delivery; every carpool; every contractor; every pizza or grocery delivery… Each trip, down and back without option. How could that change for residents when the stubbed street where they live is connected? How much more efficient can the school bus be, or the snow plowed or trash collected? How much easier is to take a walk or go on a family bike ride when a new connection opens up that now goes somewhere?”

How our community continues to evolve is important to all of us in the City, so the overall quality of life continues to improve, including effectively addressing the transportation, mobility and safety needs and options for all residents and users.

Authored by Laura Campbell, Kevin Rider, Jeff Worrell, Tim Hannon, Sue Finkam, Miles Nelson, Anthony Green and Adam Aasen.