Sidewalk fix mandate sent back to starting line

Staff Report

Hundreds of property owners will get a reprieve on mandatory sidewalk fixes, at least for now.

Amherst city council on Monday staved off an imminent vote to require 283 home and business owners in the center of town to repair or replace aged and crumbling walkways.

It met long enough — three minutes — in a special session to put the brakes on sidewalks, sending the issue back to committee discussions. The matter will next be debated at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 15.

Mayor Mark Costilow asked for the move, saying the timeline for requiring repairs was “difficult” and suggesting that better legislation could be put forward.

In a phone conversation earlier in the day, he said he believes “better solutions” can be reached, specifically with the 60-day window property owners were to be given to address sidewalk problems.

Council had been prepped to ram a sidewalk vote through within two weeks, using special meetings to speed up a normally six-week process.

In early April, council said 113 addresses had been identified as posing tripping dangers and wheelchair access limitations. It targeted upheaved slabs, areas where chunks of concrete had dislodged, and sections with large cracks.

By the end of the month, the list of addresses had more than doubled.

Officials had intended to direct council clerk Linda Turley to send letters to nearly 300 recipients advising them they had two months to fix the sidewalks themselves or hire a contractor, lest the city do the work and bill them for it.

Sidewalk permits are free and the city cannot legally profit from charging for repairs.

Staff Report