January 29, 2014
Genoa Zone 1 sidewalk repairs start in spring;
Non-compliant homeowners get letters
During a February 2013 Genoa Township Board of Trustees meeting, Bob Mathews, the township’s Director of Roads, Buildings and Grounds, said he was concerned about what a difference a fraction of an inch could make.
Mathews asked trustees to lower the township’s maximum sidewalk gap lift distance from 1.5 inches to something safer before homeowners are required to repair their sidewalks. Sidewalk slabs tend to lift for a variety of reasons, Mathews said, but street tree roots are the primary cause.
Mathews said the then current standard of 1.5-inch lift between slabs before repairs are required was too high, posing a hazard for elderly and disabled residents, and an inconvenience for residents pushing baby strollers and riding bicycles.
“If the gap is excessive and residents don’t fix them, the township will do them all,” Mathews said at that 2012 meeting. “That way it would be cheaper for residents. Our goal is to inspect all sidewalks in the township in one year, fix any sidewalks that need fixed, and re-inspect them again in four years.”
Mathews said his recommendation would be to establish a new sidewalk slab lift standard of 0.75-inch, a standard the trustees subsequently approved.
In November Mathews reported that he divided the township into four zones, inspected sidewalks in the zones, and was prepared to send letters notifying Zone 1 residents with non-compliant sidewalks that they could have them repaired, or have the township repair them and charge the homeowner a one-time payment. The homeowner could also pay for the sidewalk repairs as a five-year assessment added to his or her real estate taxes, Mathews said.
Mathews said the sidewalk repair project’s four zones are the quadrants created by the Big Walnut Road and 3C Highway intersection.
The Southwest quadrant of the Big Walnut Road and 3C intersection is Zone 1. Letters to 250 residents with non-compliant sidewalks went out earlier this month.
Zone 2, the southeast quad of the intersection, has 500 homes with issues, Zone 3 is the northwest quad and Zone 4 is the northeast quad.
Because they are sparsely populated Mathews said Zone 3 and Zone 4 combined only have 40 homes with non-compliant sidewalks. He also noted that Zone 1 sidewalk repairs should be completed in six months; all four zones will be completed within three years.
During last Thursday evening’s Genoa Township Board of Trustees meeting St. Andrews Drive resident Jeff Wells said he was one of the, in his words, lucky Zone 1 homeowners who received a certified letter informing him of the $800 cost of repairing his sidewalk if he elects to have the repairs made by a contractor hired by the township.
“My walks are deteriorating because of a street tree that was planted either by the builder or developer, but it was not planted by me,” Wells said. “My home was a spec home so the trees were not planted by a previous owner – they were planted by the builder or developer.”
Wells said he and his neighbors pay $200 per year each to the Highland Lakes Homeowners Association, but the HOA will not take responsibility for the street trees that are causing sidewalks to buckle.
“Did anyone from the township contact the Highland Lakes Homeowners Association? Nobody’s going to take responsibility for planting those trees,” Wells said. “I’ll have to pay this out of my pocket. If I pay for the sidewalk can I restrict its use? No. I can handle my $800 bill, but I’ve heard some bills are as high as $5,000 for a concrete job. They’re not going to be happy.”
Wells said he was not aware of the sidewalk repair program until he received his certified letter from the township informing him of non-compliance.
Trustee chair Rick Carfagna explained that the sidewalk repair program began a year ago; that an inventory was completed and the process explained in the township newsletter. Carfagna also noted that many of the affected developments were developed around the same time, so sidewalk deterioration would be happening during the same time.
“We tried to come up with an applicable standard for repair requirements,” Carfagna said. “We researched this and we’re not aware of any community in the state that fixes sidewalks.”
Trustee Barb Lewis noted that deteriorating sidewalks are a public safety concern, adding that sidewalk repair is always the jurisdiction of the homeowner.
Trustee Karl Gebhardt told Wells that Genoa’s Zoning Inspector and Assistant Administrator would contact the Highland Lakes Homeowners Association to determine if anything can be done about the street trees causing sidewalks to buckle.
And what about the tree buckling the sidewalk at Jeff Wells’ property?
“It’s a big tree, a healthy tree, but its obviously causing problems,” Wells said. “It’s going to have to come out.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Genoa Township Board of Trustees is 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 6, 2014, at the Genoa Township Hall, 5111 South Old 3C Highway, Westerville.
An updated list of meetings is available on the township’s website at < genoatwp.com >. The Genoa Township Administrative Offices are located at the Genoa Township Hall, 5111 South Old 3C Highway, Westerville. They are regularly open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.