Published on August 13th, 2014 |0
Proposed ordinance removes burden of sidewalk repair costs from city property owners
Many Atlanta property owners are unaware that the present city ordinance provides the city’s Public Works Department to determine that a sidewalk is unsafe and must be repaired, but the cost for those repairs are the burden of the abutting property owner, not the city.
The ordinance that will be discussed at the Aug. 20 work session is sponsored by Buckhead’s three members of City Council—Post 2 At-Large Mary Norwood, Dist. 7 Howard Shook and Dist. 8 Yolanda Adrean—along with several other members of council.
Norwood told BuckheadView the new ordinance is extremely important because sidewalks are not getting repaired under the present procedure, many homeowners cannot afford to pay for the repair of sidewalks in front of their properties and, she said, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the property owners to pay for those repairs anyway.
The City Utilities Committee work session, which is open to the public, will be held at 10 a.m. in Committee Room 2 on the second floor of City Hall.
The proposed revised ordinance recognizes that “the city’s sidewalks are public assets and provide benefit to the entire community, not just property owners or abutting property owners near sidewalks.”
It also states, “The maintenance and installation of sidewalk infrastructure throughout the city of Atlanta is a basic fuction of a local government in Georgia” and the present ordinance requires “that private property owners maintain sidewalks that are on their property.”
The revised ordinance recognizes “the city of Atlanta does not have a sufficient system for prioritizing repairs, a sustainable funding source dedicated to sidewalk repair or an effective approach to tackle the problems of repairs and replacements.”
It further states “the current practice of relying on property liens as a major source of funding is unsustainable and does not address the immediate needs of our crumbling sidewalk infrastructure and many neighborhoods and residents are unaware of the responsibility of maintaining the sidewalks or do not have the financial resources to do so.”
While much of the present sidewalk ordinance remains essentially the same under the proposed new sidewalk ordinance, the major change is in those sections where the present ordinance requires the abutting property owners to pay for repairs to the sidewalks.
For instance, a section of the present ordinance that would be removed states: “When the sidewalk abutting the right-of-way is damaged, it the obligation of the abutting property owner to repair such sidewalk upon notice from the department of public works. If after receiving such notice, the abutting property owner fails to repair the sidewalk within a reasonable time, the department of public works is authorized to make such repairs and assess the abutting property owner for costs incurred.”
Another section of the present ordinance reads: “The commissioner of public works is authorized to inspect the sidewalks along public right-of-way to see that the sidewalks thereon are in safe and suitable condition for public use and travel, to condemn promptly pavements on such sidewalks that are unsafe or unsuitable for public travel and to cause repairs to be made in accordance with city law and to charge the cost of repair to the abutting property owner.”
The proposed new ordinance changes that wording to read: “The commissioner of public works shall inspect the sidewalks along public right-of-way, to maintain the sidewalks thereon are in a safe and suitable condition for public use and travel, to condemn promptly pavements on such sidewalks that are unsafe or unsuitable for public travel and to cause repairs to me be made in accordance with city law.”
The new revised ordinance does retain responsibilities for abutting property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks in a timely manner and also to maintain grass or other plantings between sidewalks and curbs where that situation exists. If that is not done, property owners could be required to pay the costs of such maintenance by the city.
According to Patty Berg, co-chair of the city’s Sidewalk Subcommittee, “The current ordinance fails to protect the city from litigation and related losses, with some 35 payouts in two years. In fact, the current ordinance increases the city’s legal risk because it results in an increasingly dangerous sidewalk system.”
In addition, Berg wrote in a memo regarding the ordinance changes, “the current ordinance keeps the city dangerously out of compliance with Federal ADA regulations. With this legislation, the city can improve its sidewalk system and reduce its legal risk over time.”