Council Delays “Sidewalk” Definition Change

In the city of Ann Arbor, a “sidewalk” is still a sidewalk. The council delayed a decision on a change in definition until its first meeting in October, on Oct. 7.

The new definition of “sidewalk” would expand the existing definition to include non-motorized paths that are [emphasis added] “designed particularly for pedestrian, bicycle, or other nonmotorized travel and that is constructed (1) in the public right of way or (2) within or upon an easement or strip of land taken or accepted by the city or dedicated to and accepted by the city for public use by pedestrians, bicycles, or other nonmotorized travel, …”

Example of cross-lot sidewalk in Ann Arbor

Example of cross-lot paths in Ann Arbor.

The impetus behind the proposed change is several “cross-lot paths” that exist in the city, where it’s somewhat unclear who owns the land or who’s responsible for repair and winter snow clearing.

If the council changes the ordinance and it also accepts the “cross-lot” paths for public use – through a formal resolution – the impact of the “sidewalk” definition change would be twofold. First, it would make the paths eligible to be repaired by the city using sidewalk millage funds. But it would also make adjoining property owners responsible for winter snow clearing.

Also on the council’s July 1 agenda was a resolution accepting 33 cross-lot paths for public use. The council postponed consideration of that resolution until Oct. 7 as well.

The reason for the postponement stemmed in part from the outcome of a meeting with owners of adjoining properties and those who addressed the council during the July 1 public hearing. The staff summary of that meeting with property owners includes this: “There was a general consensus amongst attendees at the public meeting that City Council should postpone voting on these items until further discussion can be had and more details can be worked out.” For many of the specific paths, there was a reluctance to accept the responsibility of snow removal during the winter. [.pdf of maps for all 33 cross-lot sidewalks]

The council gave initial approval to this definition change at its June 3, 2013 meeting.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]