Ludington considering changing sidewalk policy, raises some concerns.

February 9, 2015

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — The Ludington city council is considering amending its sidewalk replacement policy. During its regular meeting Monday, a first reading of the proposed changes were read.

The current city sidewalk policy is currently as follows:

Volunteer sidewalk program: In this program, a resident contacts the city and volunteers to participate in the sidewalk program in which the city and the resident each pays 50% of the cost to replace sidewalk in front of the resident’s house.

Special assessment sidewalk program: In this program, the city, usually in response to a complaint or a previous trip-an-fall claim, contacts the resident and requires the resident to participate in the city’s sidewalk program and pay 50% of the cost to replace the defective sidewalk. If the resident refuses, then the city specially assesses the cost of replacing the sidewalk in which the resident pays 75% of the cost of replacing the sidewalk.

Property transfer program: In this program, when a property is sold, the sidewalk must be inspected. If it is in need of replacement, either the buyer or seller must pay 50% of the cost to replace the sidewalk. If no sidewalk exists at the time of the sale, then there is no requirement to install a new sidewalk. Most of the city’s sidewalk is replaced under this program.

The proposed changes include:

Requiring the installation of a new sidewalk where none previously existed when a property is sold. The buyer or seller would pay 50% of the cost to install the new sidewalk.

Clarifying that property owners with properties located within the Downtown Development Authority District (DDA) would not be required to pay 50% of the cost to replace the sidewalk, as these property owners currently pay an additional 1.6080 mills in taxes to maintain existing infrastructure.

A memo from City Manager John Shay stated: “The public utilities committee feels that this would help achieve the goal of making the city a more walkable and safer community, as there are areas in the city where pedestrians, including school children, walk in the street because there are no sidewalks.”

At least two residents questioned the changes, though.

David Betz, who resides at 708 N. St. Paul St., said he is concerned with the part of the policy that requires new homeowners to pay 50% of the cost of installation of sidewalks.

“I assume the city believes that it has a right to do this within its street right-of-way,” Betz wrote the city council. Betz referred to the Quevillons Addition to the city plat map that shows the right-of-way on St. Paul Street as beign 33 feet in width. “Yesterday I measured the width of St. Paul and it is 35 feet in width,” he wrote. “Thus, I do not believe the city has the right to enter private property to install sidewalks.”

Betz said there are 25 homes on St. Paul Street, which is three blocks long. One residence has a sidewalk in front of it while only one other sidewalk has a half of sidewalk in front of it.

“To install new sidewalks on both sides of the street would require a removal of 10 trees, five telephone poles, three school signs and 24 mailboxes am I am wondering who is to bear this cost. To me the cost of these improvements outweighs the benefits, particularly since in this three block area there is only one school age child.

“This proposal also adds additional costs to the homeowners over and above their real estate taxes, which increase each year and I believe the city should be more concerned about reducing those costs, rather than adding to them.

“I understand that this proposal only becomes effective upon a sale of a home, so it will be many many years before this proposed project would be complete and I believe the city should be more concerned with other major projects which benefit the entire city.”

Another resident raised concerns in the public comment portion of the city council meeting. She stated she had heard that out of town people were influencing the policy changes.

Mayor Ryan Cox stated that the concerns to change the sidewalk policy have been raised by citizens of Ludington. He said during his 2013 campaign he had heard from many people with children who were concerned about making the city safer for non-motorized transportation.

City Attorney Richard Wilson said the city does not have the authority to build sidewalks on private property and would only build on the city’s right-of-way.

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