Will hundreds of Syracuse landowners be forced to pay an average of $1,800 each for curb, gutter and sidewalk as part of a proposed almost citywide special improvement district?

The City Council voted again Tuesday night to delay a decision on the issue, the hottest topic in Syracuse for years, until at least its next meeting on April 14. Councilman Jon W. Jepperson said the coun-cil wants more time to assess the latest public comments voiced in a three-hour hearing.More than 200 residents packed city hall for the third public hearing on the improvement district, and once again only a handful spoke in favor of the plan.

All city residents were informed by mail of the improvement plan and asked to send in their vote. The council will be looking more closely at the individual votes and decide whether to delete any specific areas from the district.

Mayor Robert Thurgood stressed the city has no hidden agenda with the district. It's simply a way to enhance pedestrian safety.

He said only 35 percent of the property owners have protested creation of the district. Legally, more than 50 percent must protest for it to fail.

However, some residents said they still don't believe the majority really want curb, gutter and sidewalk. That's because anyone who didn't return a vote to City Hall on the plan by the deadline was automatically counted as being in favor of it. That's the way the state law reads - despite voter apathy.

All residents were informed by mail of the improvement plan and asked to send in their vote.

Opponents of the district cited reasons such as loss of property values, salability, front yard space, trees, the dirt strip next to the road to ride horses on and the high cost involved.

Some residents also believe the improvements will create wider streets and thus cause drivers to go faster than ever. They feel lower speed limits and more student busing would improve pedestrian safety more than sidewalks. Others feel students won't use the sidewalks anyway.

Thurgood said a new elementary school set to open in 1999 and a proposed high school will make the city's rural streets a nightmares for pedestrians.

Tempers flared at the latest hearing. Most residents at the hearing appeared outraged at the plan and feel they're being railroaded into accepting it.

"You need to listen to us," Debbie Woodrow told the council. She opposes the plan and the way the city is promoting it.

Another resident, Katie Parkinson, said she feels like she's being intimidated into accepting the plan.

Even Planning Commission member Timothy Robinett pleaded for the council to reconsider even though he agreed there's no way the city can remain rural with unstoppable population growth.

Former Mayor DeLore Thurgood said the council is being abused by impolite and disrespectful residents at the hearings.

Another resident said the issue is creating many bad feelings.