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My town is planning to remove or significantly modify the historic boulevard medians in our small town. They are seen as a maintenance burden. I view them as a defining community feature and traffic slowing element. My question is - would such action normally be considered by a planning commission and be subject of public coordination/ comment?

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Hall BlockStrong Towns Member
Property Manager, Van Wert County Foundation

Not sure where you are, but here in Ohio the discretion would be left almost entirely up to the engineer for the town, requiring only internal review and no public comment.

I don't know the context, but this sounds like something that should be fought. Medians definitely can be a community feature and a traffic calming measure, even beautification with brick or landscaping. Rarely are medians like this removed for anything other than road widening or 'increased access'. Just know that fighting an engineer resolved to follow through on a project like this can be especially difficult, as the number one fall-back is safety concerns. Traffic safety is often the specter hanging over road widening projects, even though the benefits of widening are shaky at best. If the concern truly is just maintenance, then this plan necessitates a conversation about the value of the median to the neighborhood character and whether or not that balances with the maintenance cost. It's likely the value added is much greater, and you could advocate for that stance.

It depends on the context... we have some 'historic medians' in our town too but they're often preserved at the expense of pedestrians (long perpendicular crossing distance and narrow parallel sidewalks), cyclists (no room to add bike lanes), and even drivers (poor turning radii, sight distance, and storm drainage issues). I'm not inclined to see a median (i.e. landscaped or other unusable open space in a roadway) as adding value to a community or especially to a road.

But to answer your question: if they have true historic designation there is likely an exemption process for modifying or removing them during which there would be a public comment period, but it depends on the jurisdiction.