MILFORD — Sidewalk blemishes have the city cracking down on an old, once forgotten ordinance.
Letters were sent to residents and business owners in July whose sidewalks seem to have more significant damage and are near school or downtown areas in hopes of beginning to resolve the city’s walkability concerns through a new Sidewalk Repair Program.
Formal notices will be sent in August listing exact changes which need to be made, according to Public Works Director Mark Whitfield.
The letter in July invited residents and business owners to a public meeting held Monday, July 23 to hear additional information and ask Mr. Whitfield and City Manager Eric Norenberg questions regarding the new program.
Interested citizens filled the council chambers at city hall to standing room only with a few people left standing in the hallway listening to the conversation at hand.
“The ordinance that Mark is following has been on the books since 2007. We’re starting now. We started the inspection program this year, well actually last November [is when] we started working on that and really, it’s because of some of the complaints and even in some neighborhoods we have had some that are in bad shape and tripping hazards and stuff like that. We want everyone to get somewhere safely,” Mr. Norenberg told the crowd during the meeting.
The city code, referred to by Mr. Norenberg, states in Chapter 197, article I, subsection 197-4 that, “In all instances, property owners shall be responsible for maintaining, repairing, or replacing sidewalks and for keeping sidewalks in good repair, in safe condition and free of vegetation and shall not permit hazards to either pedestrian or vehicular traffic to exist.
“All sidewalks within, adjacent to, or approximately parallel to an owner’s property line, although it may be situated partially or wholly in a City right-of-way or easement, shall be considered the property owner’s responsibility.”
It goes on to state that property owners “shall be given the opportunity to finance” improvements through reimbursement to the city not to exceed “60 equal consecutive monthly payments.” Owners who do not pay “will be subject to legal action and/or a lien being placed upon the property.” Low-income property owners, according to the code, “may apply for financial assistance, provided the city funding is available.”
While property owners in the room understood the ordinance, many questions were asked during the meeting.
“What do you do if you live on a street constantly pounded by semi-trucks? I live on Seabury Avenue. If we make a repair, it seems to me it’s just going to be a matter of time before it’s broken,” one resident said. “So, I have a concern about throwing money away for something that could be so costly.”
Another resident said, “I’ve lived here for 35 years, and I’ve never heard a complaint about sidewalks. . . As a property owner for 35 years, we’re all kind of in a panic.”
Mr. Whitfield encouraged the group to wait until official notices are sent out later in August as those letters will detail changes which need to be made and possible solutions.
He also said an inspector would be willing to visit property owners with questions regarding their sidewalks for a more in depth, personal conversation about how the Sidewalk Repair Program could affect them.
“We identified roughly 430 sidewalks that needed to be addressed,” Mr. Whitfield said. “The matter is about getting rid of tripping hazards. Safety is important.”