Walkability Facts



Here you will find information about Windsor Heights' efforts to improve walkability. This page will be updated as warranted. The City remains committed to transparency in their work on community and economic development.

First, a few important points:

1   New sidewalks are one of many City infrastructure priorities, including street improvements. City Council is developing a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that includes improvements to streets and other infrastructure in the public right-of-way. All capital investment within the CIP will fit within the City's conservative bonding limits. Planning will accelerate when city administrator Elizabeth Hansen begins on Oct. 10.

2   The cost of walkability improvements has yet to be defined. A broad, preliminary scope from the Walkability Committee had an estimated $2.8 million cost — equal to about $75 per $100,000 in taxable valuation for each property owner if covered with a 20-year bond — but no decisions have been made about scope, cost or timing. For residential property owners, taxable value is roughly 55% of the full value of the property, whereas commercial property owners are taxed at 90% of full value. Council hosted the first Capital Improvement Plan work session on August 29, reviewing street and infrastructure conditions and public input provided from the two public hearings and previous council meetings. Design options and costs are expected from the City’s engineers soon and will be presented to Council at a date to be determined. 

3   There is no decision on how to pay for the cost of any new construction. The Walkability Committee recommended – based on public input – that the City issue general obligation bonds to finance improvements. Walkability improvements need to be balanced with other infrastructure needs and placed in the context of a broader Capital Improvement Plan. Completion of a Capital Improvement Plan will define what is required, then Council will decide how to pay for it.

4   Windsor Heights is financially healthy. The City’s financial position includes a high quality credit rating, increasing valuations, stable tax rates, a healthy general fund balance and a self imposed debt margin leaving more than $4.7M in debt capacity.

5   Public input shaped the process and outcomes. See the detail below for the role of the Walkability Committee, Planning & Zoning Commission and public forums in shaping the Council’s ongoing work. Windsor Heights can be proud that we have the most accommodating sidewalk ordinance in the metro as a result of public input.

6   City Council is committed to improving Windsor Heights. The work outlined in the City’s strategic plan can transform Windsor Heights into something even more remarkable.

You can email info@windsorheights.org or call 279.3662 with any questions.

Here is additional background on walkability policy:

July 6, 2015

At the motion of councilmember Burgess and recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Windsor Heights adopted a Complete Streets Policy to become the fourth metro area city committing to designing streets for all users – a unanimous vote assuring that children, the elderly, the disabled, public transit users and those who commute by foot or bike are able to safely move along and cross streets.

See meeting minutes

March 21, 2016

In the wake of the November 2015 elections, petitions circulated on the issue of sidewalks. During the March 21, 2016 City Council meeting, citizens spoke on sidewalks during public comment.

See meeting minutes

April 4, 2016

During the Committee of the Whole meeting, the Council discussed continuing the sidewalk discussion and putting together a plan and options regarding sidewalks.

See meeting minute

April 18, 2016

The Council provided an update that the May 9, 2016 City News Hour would focus on sidewalks.

See meeting minutes

May 9, 2016

Mayor and Council hosted a City News Hour on sidewalks, discussing locations throughout the city that currently lack sidewalks and what can ben done to improve walkability for citizens and visitors.

May 16, 2016

At the May, 16, 2016 meeting, it was passed that the Mayor would appoint by May 20, 2016 a committee of three residents, two council members, director of public works and an independent facilitator with the charge to make a recommendation for a comprehensive walkability master plan, including prioritizing streets based on need, how the plan will be funded and the projected time frame for implementation.

See meeting minutes

June 20, 2016

The City Council set a July 5 public hearing on the City’s sidewalk ordinance (City Code Chapter 136). The Planning and Zoning Commission made unanimous recommendations on financing and construction related to the ordinance. The Walkability Policy Committee’s recommendations, under revision at the Council’s request following two additional months of public input, ask that the City issue general obligation bonds to finance for improvements Additionally, the Committee worked on hardship measures for those physically or financially unable to attend to maintain their right-of-way. As drafted, the Committee’s recommendations do more to lessen the burden on residents than any other city in our metro.

See meeting minutes

July 5, 2016

The City Council held a public hearing for the proposed ordinance amendment for Chapter 136. Fifty public comments were made and 11 written comments were received. Complete record of public comments is available at City Hall.

See meeting minutes 

July 11, 2016

The Mayor hosted a City News Hour where Zach Young, Senior Planner, Metropolitan Planning Organization, presented the recommended ordinance changes from the Walkability Committee followed by a question and answer session.

July 18, 2016

The Committee of the Whole discussed walkability and that the infrastructure of streets should be considered in the walkability ordinance.

See the minutes

August 15, 2016

Zach Young, Senior Planner, Metropolitan Planning Organization, presented the updated changes to City Code Chapter 136 and the committee addressed the issues listed in comments. 

The meeting held a public hearing on the proposed replacements for City Code Chapter 136. There were nine public comments and 158 comments received in writing. Council accepted the first reading of the ordinance.

See the minutes

August 29, 2016

The City Council held a work session to discuss the Pedestrian Master Plan, exploring street and infrastructure conditions, design alternatives to sidewalks, financing and other issues and priorities related to walkability. No decisions were made; the City’s engineer was directed to provide more information.

See the agenda and meeting documents

September 6, 2016

City Council accepted the second reading of the sidewalk ordinance (City Code Chapter 136)

See the minutes

September 19, 2016

City Council accepted the final reading of the sidewalk ordinance. The minutes will be available on the website after approval on October 3rd council meeting.

Next steps:

City Council may host another work session to review engineering estimates on streets, infrastructure and walkability improvements. Information and meetings will be shared when available.

Again, you can email info@windsorheights.org or call 279.3662 with any questions.

Walkability Podcast


Iowa Public Radio had a podcast on walkbability, called Taking Steps Towards Walkability. Windsor Heights was mentioned during the podcast.  Here's the link: