Sidewalks – the deal you didn’t know you made

We made a deal.

We may not know it, but we did.  The deal was simple — the town would put in sidewalks, assessing homeowners for the cost, and if they had problems, it was on the homeowner to repair them.

That was the deal. 

In fact, the Council went to great pains to see if people actually wanted sidewalks.  They sought and received input from residents, on a block-by-block basis, to see if they wanted sidewalks installed.  You don’t remember anyone asking?  It might have been before your time.

Here’s an example from the Township minutes in the 1950’s:

Beverly Road:

The residents of Beverly Road wanted sidewalks.  So, they got them.

But not everyone wanted sidewalks.

Here’s how the process worked when residents did NOT want sidewalks:

First, an ordinance was introduced (The following hearing on Ordinance #957 took place on May 6th, 1952):

Then, the council would hear from those affected.

Teaneck Road

Mrs. Tallman (at 503 Teaneck Road) appeared with friends and “voiced strenuous objection as well as written protests to the laying of sidewalks on Teaneck Road abutting their property.  You can read their reasons below and the passive aggressive guilt trip council tries in case any students get killed on the busy street for lack of a place to walk.


Windsor Road

A resident of Churchill Road (on the corner of Windsor) spoke out against his side on Windsor getting a sidewalk.  They ARE beautiful lawns.

Did Mr. Shuster get what he wanted?  Let’s see:

So, when you wonder why one side of Windsor Road has sidewalks, but not the other, you can think of Mr. Shuster and his desire not to have people walk by his beautiful lawn.

Pine Street

Here’s one where residents didn’t see eye to eye:

Ok, this one has residents pitted against each other.

Mr. Adler (at 239 Pine Street) objected to the installation of sidewalks, but Mr. Lurie (at 269 Pine Street) favored having them.

What did Council do?

They literally stop mid-block.

The Code

With the foregoing in mind, let’s turn to the code:

Sec. 32-30 Upkeep of sidewalks.
[R.O. 1951, ch. 26, § 9.] The owner or occupant of premises abutting any bluestone or concrete sidewalk shall maintain such sidewalk at all times in a good and passable condition at a grade which will prevent water accumulating thereon and shall replace any flagstones or concrete slabs which become broken and shall maintain the sidewalk so that the joints thereof are even. The surface of all concrete sidewalks shall be kept properly roughened so as not to become smooth and slippery.
Sec. 32-31 Duty of adjoining property owners to replace sidewalks.
[R.O. 1951, ch. 26, § 10.] In case any sidewalk becomes deteriorated, broken or hazardous, the owner or occupant of the land abutting such sidewalk shall forthwith, upon receipt of written notice from the Township engineer, replace or cause such sidewalk to be replaced and made in a good and passable condition so as to conform with the requirements of this article.
Ordinances 32-30 and 32-31 pre-date many of the sidewalks in town.  The hearing above wouldn’t even happen for a year after the latest revision of this ordinance.

You assume certain decisions when purchasing your home

When we buy homes, we buy the decisions previous homeowners made.  If the previous owners did electrical work, but never closed out permits, we would be on the hook for those permits.
So too, when the previous homeowners made an agreement to put in sidewalks – they assumed the requirements to fix them.

What can be done?

In another post, I’ll write more about the inequity of the system to those “dinged” with a fix-your-sidewalks letter and why changes to the system have been shot down over the years.

The code was meant to be a shield, but someone is using it as a sword

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