Cross-Lot Paths as Sidewalks: Initial OK

Cross-lot walkways that aren’t located on the side of a street will likely be defined as “sidewalks” in the city of Ann Arbor – based on the initial approval of an ordinance change by the Ann Arbor city council on Oct. 7, 2013.

Elements of the ordinance change would: (1) allow such cross-lot paths to be repaired with funds from the city’s sidewalk repair millage; and (2) not trigger the winter maintenance requirement for adjacent property owners.

Under the city’s current ordinances, if an existing walkway meets the definition of a “sidewalk,” then the city bears responsibility for its repair for the duration of the sidewalk repair millage – which was approved by voters in November 2011 for a five-year period. But all other things being equal, the adjacent property owners are responsible for snow removal in the winter.

The change to the definition relates to walkways that connect a street to a park or school, or that connect two parallel streets. The city calls them “cross-lot” walkways. The ordinance change – given initial approval on Oct. 7 – would allow such walkways to be “sidewalks” if the council votes to accept them for “public use.” A companion resolution on Oct. 7 called for acceptance of 34 cross-lot walkways throughout the city for public use. The council voted to postpone that resolution so that it could be considered at the same meeting when the ordinance revision is given final consideration.

Final enactment of the ordinance change will require a second vote at a subsequent council meeting – expected on Oct. 21.

The ordinance change had previously been in front of the council for final approval – on July 1, 2013. However, objections by several property owners to the winter maintenance requirement led the council to postpone the final vote until Oct. 7. Because of the new approach the city took – which does not trigger the winter maintenance requirement for adjacent property owners – the council’s Oct. 7 vote is considered only the initial approval. The ordinance change does not relieve owners of property adjacent to other sidewalks of the winter shoveling requirement.

The city has estimated that for the 34 cross-lot paths, repairs and snow clearance would annually total around $7,000 – $5,100 for snow plowing and $1,900 for repair.

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]