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Town amends ordinance to require homeowners to maintain sidewalks

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

If the sidewalk in front of your home in this town is in disrepair, your wallet may be in the same shape soon.

The townís board of commissioners unanimously voted to amend the ordinance that makes property owners responsible for the condition of sidewalks adjacent to their homes. Instead of requiring the board to mandate that repairs be made, authority for those decisions was shifted to the town staff, with final approval of the town manager.

The step was taken to remove responsibility from the board and enable repair mandates to be made quicker.

David Haller, town manager, said Emmitsburg could face trouble if someone were hurt because of a damaged section of sidewalk. If the town knew about the problem but hadnít acted to have the homeowner make repairs, it could be held liable.

"Thereís no way for you to dodge the ultimate financial responsibility," Mr. Haller said.

Commissioner Clifford Sweeney said he thought that because homeowners are responsible for removing snow from their sidewalks, they should be accountable for the condition of those paths.

Resident Dianne Walbrecker asked about damage caused by trees that the town planted along the walkways. If the trees are removed, put in root boxes and replaced, she said she didnít think residents should be responsible for any of the cost.

The board also unanimously decided to have its planning and zoning commission study the prospect of requiring sprinkler systems in single-family homes. The consensus was that the commissioners favored mandating the safety device but wanted the planning panelís input. In other action, the board unanimously approved an ordinance to rezone land so Bollinger Properties LLC can build 48 senior-housing units in the town, and it decided to continue the practice of not allowing the planning commissionís alternate member to participate in discussion and debate unless substituting for a panel member.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government