Ocean View aims to clarify sidewalk maintenance ordinance

Ocean View Mayor Walter Curran introduced an ordinance at the June meeting of the Ocean View Town Council that would amend, and possibly clarify, the town code related to curbing and paving, and the duties of adjacent property owners as it pertains to sidewalks.

“We have had numerous discussions about sidewalks,” said Curran, who brought the possible amendment to the council.

Curran said there has been confusion among residents regarding who is responsible when it comes to sidewalk repair, maintenance and replacement.

“Some of that wording has been misconstrued by some people who have asked some questions… ‘Doesn’t that mean the Town should take over maintenance of all the sidewalks?’ The answer to that, certainly in my opinion… is absolutely not.”

In May 2011, the town council voted to amend Chapter §187 of the town code so that any new sidewalks erected within the town following the date the adoption of the ordinance, if accepted by the Town, would be the responsibility of the Town, with the exception of snow and ice removal.

“From my perspective, I believe we need to change the language slightly to clarify that we don’t get into any hardwash going forward.”

Curran said he introduced the ordinance “purely to make it clear” as to the responsibilities of the property owner.

Councilman Tom Sheeran asked whether, if a homeowner is a part-time resident, they are required to pay someone to clear snow and ice on their sidewalk.

“I believe that’s already part of the law,” said Curran.

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader noted that the Town has always had a subdivision law requiring the construction of sidewalks.

He said, “187-12 also obligates people who are building single-family homes on single lots to construct sidewalks and to maintain it as part of routine ownership, which puts them at the same posture as everyone else. That’s included as a part of this.”

When asked for his opinion, Town Administrative Official Charles McMullen said that Chapter §187 needs to be read in its entirety.

“I think by going to Section B — which gets everyone’s attention because the responsibility falls on the Town — you can’t read that without reading Section A first, which puts the onus on the Town to accept repair, maintenance and replacement responsibility for those new dwellings or commercial structures that are being built.

“It’s my belief that this section of the code… when this ordinance was introduced, that law became effective that date. Up until this law was introduced, it was the property owner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalks.

“Once this ordinance came into effect, it no longer put the responsibility on the property owner, but it was only for sidewalks going to be installed as a result of the Town requiring them for a new dwelling or commercial structure.

“We have not done that to-date since this ordinance has been adopted. I don’t believe this requires the Town to maintain any sidewalks other than those being built after this ordinance became effective. Just my interpretation, respectfully.”

Schrader stated he agreed with McMullen’s interpretation.

“When that was drafted by me back in 2011 and adopted in May 2011, it was never the intention that all sidewalks previously constructed were to be accepted by the Town,” he said. “It was fine-tuned two months later, with the snow removal issue.”

Curran’s draft amendment states that “the repair, maintenance and replacement of any required paving, gravelling, curbing and sidewalks accepted by the Town after May 24, 2011, shall be the sole responsibility of the Town except that, for purposes of snow or ice removal…”

The first reading of the proposed amendment is scheduled for July 14.

In other news from the council meeting this week:

• Police Chief Ken McLaughlin informed council that, at any given time, approximately 12 residents are signed up for the department’s senior check-in program.

“They call in to the police department every single day.”

McLaughlin said the program has been up and running for about 15 years.

Sheeran said he’d read about a Knox Box, which enables residents to securely store a key to their home outside, which can be accessed by emergency personnel to allow them into the home in case of an emergency, without needing to break down a door or otherwise gain access.

McLaughlin said the boxes are available through the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.

“I highly recommend them,” he said. “We have one installed at the Melson building. There are a number of homes throughout the town and a number of commercial establishments that have the Knox Boxes.”

Sheeran said he learned about the boxes after a next-door neighbor fell and needed medical attention.

“She fell down the other day and very calmly she called the ambulance, but then she called us because she said, ‘I know you have a key. Will you let them in?’”

Sheeran said more information about the box can be found by visiting www.knoxbox.com.

• The Town’s first Concert in the Park will be held on June 12 at 6 p.m., featuring Randy Lee Ashcraft & the Saltwater Cowboy Band. Boy Scout Troop 281 will be selling hot dogs, while free ice cream will be served by Mister Softee.

• Resident John Reddington was appointed to the town’s Board of Adjustment, following the resignation of Chairman Tom Silvia. Silvia will continue to serve on the town’s Board of Elections.