The Auburn City Council will consider in the coming weeks reinstating a moratorium on a policy that requires property owners to install sidewalks next to their properties.
But first, local residents will be able to voice their opinions in front of the city council.
A public hearing on the city’s sidewalk policy is scheduled for Thursday at the beginning of the city council’s weekly meeting.
The hearing will focus on a proposal to put a hold on the city requirement that property owners install a sidewalk adjacent to their property if one does not currently exist. If the council eventually approves the proposal, it will be the second moratorium since last summer.
The council will likely schedule a vote for next week’s meeting.
Currently, the proposal calls for a 14-month hold on the sidewalk policy. Under the moratorium, property owners would still be responsible for maintaining existing sidewalks adjacent to their properties.
Councilors and residents have complained in recent years that the sidewalk policy is unclear and arbitrarily enforced.
City officials have also said sections of the city code and charter related to sidewalks conflict with each other.
City Councilor Matthew Smith proposed a moratorium last summer after saying that the policy places an unfair financial burden on property owners. At the time, he said he didn’t believe citizens should have to pay out of their own pockets to install a sidewalk if one has never existed in the neighborhood.
The council passed a six-month hold on the law last year, though no changes were made since.
Smith was not available for comment Monday, but Auburn Mayor Michael Quill said he also believes the sidewalk policy needs changes. Quill said that will entail looking at every aspect of the code, from installation and repairs to enforcement, something that merits more time than the original, six-month hold.
“This whole issue has got to be resolved,” he said on Monday.
But Quill also said he has not yet decided whether to support the new moratorium. He said he wants to know how the proposal will affect the York Street reconstruction. Funded by state and federal dollars, that project does include sidewalk work that has been controversial with some residents and city councilors.
Quill also questioned whether it would be a good idea to continue suspending the sidewalk regulations for a long period of time. He said he’s noticed spots around the city where people have actually ripped out their sidewalks and put in plants.
“What stops everyone else in this city from doing that (if there is a moratorium)?” Quill asked. “I want to hear input from all the people.”
Some have already given their input, like David McCarthy. An Auburn resident, McCarthy was one of multiple voices who called for changes in the city’s sidewalk policies last year before the moratorium.
McCarthy said he believes the hold on the law needs to be extended, since the city was not able to put together a new policy during the past year. Residents should have a voice in the process as well, he said.
“The problem is, there’s just no uniform enforcement. It’s just arbitrary the way they’re doing it now,” McCarthy said.
Proponents of the sidewalk policy have said the city needs to remember the pedestrians and people with physical disabilities who use the sidewalks every day.
Options for Independence, an organization that advocates for people with disabilities, criticized the moratorium last year. However, representatives with Options for Independence did not return a phone message seeking comment Monday.
Staff writer Christopher Caskey can be reached at 282-2282 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenCaskey.
If you go
What: Public hearing on Auburn sidewalk moratorium
When: 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 2 at the start of the city council meeting
Where: Memorial City Hall,
24 South St. Auburn