Another set of property owners soon will get city notices telling them they must pay to fix sidewalks

photo by: Nick Krug

A crumbling section of a Lawrence neighborhood sidewalk is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 28, 2018.

The city will soon begin inspecting sidewalks in southeast Lawrence, and some property owners will be getting notices informing them they must pay for the identified repairs.

It’s estimated that millions of dollars in sidewalk repairs are needed throughout Lawrence, and the city was broken into nine zones to begin enforcing its long-standing ordinance. The ordinance requires all property owners to pay to repair the sidewalks running along their property. Certain homeowners — low-income households and those with multiple sidewalks on their property — are eligible to have the city pay for all or part of their repair costs.

Municipal Services & Operations spokesperson Josh Carson said the southeast Lawrence enforcement area includes approximately 1,300 properties, though not all those properties have sidewalks. Carson said the city will inspect sidewalks in October and November, and repair notices will be hung on doors as the inspections are completed. The zone to be inspected includes the Indian Hills, Park Hill and Breezedale neighborhoods, as well as areas not part of a neighborhood association.

More specifically, the enforcement area is bounded on the north by 23rd Street and on the south by the South Lawrence Trafficway, according to city maps. The area is bounded on the west by Iowa Street and on the east by Barker Avenue, Vermont Street, Montana Street and Louisiana Street. The 23rd Street and Iowa Street boundaries include both sides of the street.

The city will hold public meetings about the sidewalk repair program before the inspections begin later this month. Carson said the area has been split in half and property owners will be invited via mail to one of two meetings that will take place on Oct. 10 and Oct. 14. He said the inspections will begin once the meetings are held.

Property owners who receive repair notices can select their own contractor, use the city’s contractor and pricing, or make the repairs themselves as long as they are made to specific city standards and compliant with requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the city’s website.

Property owners have until the last day of April to make repairs themselves or have a contractor make them on their behalf. If repairs are not made by that date, the city contractor will make the repairs.

Property owners who have the city contractor make repairs will be billed after the repairs are completed and will have at least nine months to make payments. If payments aren’t made in full by the end of that time, the remaining costs will be spread over four years and added to the property tax bills of those properties.

Last month, Lawrence city commissioners provided feedback to city staff regarding the administrative policy used to enforce the city’s sidewalk repair ordinance. The ordinance has been on the books for decades, but the city did not strictly enforce it until this spring. The first enforcement zone was in northwest Lawrence, where there was strong opposition to both the practice of requiring adjacent property owners to pay for repairs and the city’s enforcement methods.

City staff proposed changes to address various complaints, including a lack of a clear appeal process, a complicated process for opting into using the city contractor, and unclear definitions regarding which sidewalk defects required repairs, among other concerns. The commission provided feedback on those changes, but there was not enough support among commissioners to change the underlying ordinance that makes adjacent property owners responsible for repairs.

Under the revised policy, the city identified eight defects that constitute a hazard:

• A vertical separation greater than half an inch;

• A horizontal separation greater than half an inch;

• Deterioration of sidewalk panel due to spalling, scaling, cracking or delamination;

• A peak or a dip in a sidewalk that is at least 3 inches higher or lower than the normal grade of the sidewalk;

• Grass, weeds, tree roots or other vegetation that is obstructing use of the sidewalk;

• A defect in an ADA access ramp;

• Broken, missing or loose bricks;

• An inconsistent sidewalk cross slope, as can sometimes happen on brick sidewalks.

There are a few instances where the city will pay for repairs to the sidewalk. Those include sidewalks that have been damaged by city infrastructure. That could include sidewalks that have been damaged by the roots of trees that are in the city’s right of way, or damage caused by city manholes.

The policy also created a financial aid program for low-income homeowners and those who have more than one sidewalk adjacent to their home. More information about the sidewalk repair program is available on the city’s website.

Both the Oct. 10 and Oct. 14 meetings will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Billy Mills Middle School, 2734 Louisiana St.


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