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Village Council—Sidewalk fixes to move ahead

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At their Aug. 2 Village Council meeting, Council members unanimously approved a resolution that allows the Village to move ahead with assessing local property owners on the east side of Xenia Avenue the cost of repairing sidewalks deemed substandard and unsafe.

“This project has been on our radar a long time,” said Council member Karen Wintrow. “I’d like it to move forward, and the prices seem reasonable.”

The sidewalk resolution, which reflects current Village policy on sidewalks, is the third step in the process of making Village-wide repairs to substandard sidewalks, according to Village Manager Mark Cundiff, with previous steps being identifying sidewalks in need of repair and assessing appropriate costs. The sidewalks covered in this resolution, which have been identified by Council as a priority, are located in an area that wheelchair-bound residents of Friends Care Community navigate on their way to downtown.

In previous meetings, Council has stated that it intends to address all Village sidewalks at some point. At the meeting Council members had an initial discussion on the wider topic of the Village sidewalk policy, including construction of new sidewalks, but did not take action at this time.

The Xenia Avenue sidewalks covered by the Aug. 2 resolution are those with offsets between slabs of pavement of one half inch or more, according to Village Planner Ed Amrhein, who walked the sidewalks with several wheelchair-bound FCC residents. While federal ADA standards allow for an offset of up to an inch, that amount of offset felt painful or dangerous to the wheelchair-bound villagers who tested the sidewalks, Amrhein said.

“We chose to go with a tighter standard,” he said.

Most of the property owners are being assessed amounts “in the small 100s” of dollars, Amrhein said, with a few of the assessments around $1,000 and the largest $1,600.

The sidewalks identified as in need of repair are, downtown, those abutting businesses at 225 Xenia Avenue, 227 Xenia Avenue, 233 Xenia Avenue and 263 Xenia Avenue. Residential sidewalks are located adjacent to properties at 321 Xenia Avenue, 503 Xenia Avenue, 509 Xenia Avenue, 515 Xenia Avenue, 106 East Whiteman Street, 611 Xenia Avenue, 619 Xenia Avenue, 717 Xenia Avenue, 777 Xenia Avenue, 801 Xenia Avenue, 825 Xenia Avenue, 833 Xenia Avenue, 903 Xenia Avenue, 911 Xenia Avenue and 917 Xenia Avenue.

The resolution passed at the meeting allows the Village to notify property owners of the need to repair the sidewalk in accordance to Village standards within 90 days of receiving the notice, according to a memo from Cundiff to Council.

If the sidewalks are not repaired within the stated time frame, the repairs will be completed by the Village. Total cost of the repairs will be reported to Council and an itemized list of assessments will be placed on file with the Village Clerk for public inspection, according to the memo. The list will also be published in the Yellow Springs News for three weeks. Property owners have two additional weeks to object to the amount of the assessment.

At that point, Council will vote on an ordinance levying special assessments, and the amounts will be sent to the property owners by mail. The property owner will have 30 days to pay the assessment to the Village, and unpaid assessments will be included in property taxes.

It will likely be less expensive for property owners to contract the work themselves rather than to have the Village do the work, Cundiff said.

In their discussion regarding the Village sidewalk issue in general, Council members expressed differing concerns regarding the best way to move ahead, especially regarding the construction of new sidewalks, which could involve higher costs to property owners. Judith Hempfling expressed interest in identifying a cap on potential costs to homeowners, although Wintrow expressed concern about smaller property owners paying the same as those with larger properties. In a memo identifying pros and cons of current policy, Cundiff wrote that a case can be made for the Village footing all sidewalk construction bills, in line with Village responsibility for streets.

The issue is a complex and difficult one, which is why several previous Councils have chosen not to address it, according to Amrhein.

“This conversation is a perfect example of how fractious and full of variables these discussions become,” he said. “What’s fair? That’s the issue we’ve tripped over for years.”

Council agreed that Village staff will research communities that do use caps on sidewalk construction assessments, and that further discussion will take place in the fall.

Other items of Aug. 2 Council business will be covered in next week’s News.


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