Local Government

Grand Forks Demands Residents Pay For Sidewalk No One Wants

One resident will have to pay $8,500 to install a municipally mandated walkway.

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The Grand Forks, North Dakota, city council has found a novel way to connect its homeowners: demand they install public sidewalks across their lawns entirely at their own expense.

After more than 20 years of pitched resistance the council gave residents on several designated streets in Grand Forks an ultimatum: Put in the sidewalk in yourself, hire a contractor to put it in, or have the city hire a contractor to put it in and pay the city a special assessment.

One way or another people of Grand Forks, you're getting connected.

"There are no other options," Dana Sande, president of the City Council President told WDAZ-TV.

A sidewalk
TheMuuj/ Flickr

City code requires sidewalks, but the council has total discretion to waive the requirement if it wants to. As Sande said, there are no other options. "Sidewalks aren't protestable," he said bluntly in the WDAZ interview.

This, as you might imagine, hasn't connected with residents in the way Sande might have hoped. Jared Johnson, who purchased his home on Chestnut St. six years ago, said the city is forcing him to spend $8,500 to pave over a good portion of his lawn.

"It'll be a foot off of our property marker up on the corner then it'll cut across here in the driveway," Johnson said.

Johnson has so far gathered the signatures of more than half of his neighbors on a petition Sande said he and his fellow council members are free to ignore. Sande and the city intend to make liberal use of a special assessment, a charge levied on a property owner for an infrastructure intended to benefit the property.

The broader the supposed benefit of the infrastructure improvement, the less appropriate special assessment becomes.

Fears of the special assessment on Johnson's street in 1995, led to the first protest and a council decision to waive the city code requirement.

In 2008, the city council revisited the sidewalk issue, but after 33 of 35 property owners said no to them at a public hearing—again because of special assessment fears—the council agreed to delay any sidewalk construction until January 2016.

But with that exemption period over—and the City Council controlled by Sande—Chestnut St. homeowners have run out of options to keep their lawns from being dug up, concrete laid and a $100 a month special assessment fee levied.

Johnson told the local TV station he intends to put off plans he had for his property to set aside money for an improvement he wants nothing to do with.

"We were actually considering doing some possible addition on our home and some remodeling," Johnson told WDAZ, "but it [the special assessment] is kind of going to put us in a hard place again."

Sometimes all a city government needs is a little capriciousness to connect a community.

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  1. Grand Forks Demands Residents Pay For Sidewalk No One Wants

    I’m sure construction companies and tax collectors want those sidewalks.

  2. put in the sidewalk in yourself, hire a contractor to put it in or have the city hire a contractor to put it in and pay the city a special assessment.

    Proper response: “Fuck off because the sidewalk is in the state right-of-way.” (most likely)

    1. Or, “Show me the city’s Environmental Impact Statement first”.

      1. That too. They are adding impervious area.

  3. I bet they don’t have this problem in Somalia.

    1. So your position is pay for sidewalks out of pocket and pay property taxes
      or
      move to Somalia?

      1. Yup

  4. Typical Democrats…oh, wait.

    1. Its a city that has has Democrats. Democrats like to tell people what to do. Republicans like to tell people what to do.

      “To top it off, they had their best showing in the House in 2016 in 40 years and won their record 12th straight presidential vote.Not to mention, the 45% margin in last year’s governor’s race. To those points, Democrats in South Dakota are now looking for a reset which will reshape the state party to draw in voters from all ideological backgrounds.”
      -wikipedia
      SD election results

      1. Thanks for the South Dakota update.

  5. So there is no recall process in Grand Forks?

  6. Demand they install public sidewalks across their lawns entirely at their own expense.

    Who does Grand Forks think it is, New York City?

    1. I was surprised to learn NYC does this – until I thought about the liability issue that is probably behind it. It does explain why the sidewalks are so shitty and uneven.

    2. Washington DC owns your front yard up to your front door. You’re financially liable for anything that happens to it or if the District wants you to do any work on it, of course. But it’s not yours.

  7. Remember that social contract you accepted when you decided to live there?

    1. You don’t sign the contract when you decide to live there. You sign (in triplicate with the blood of your unborn firstborn) it when you don’t decide to move somewhere else.

    2. Looks like they actually had to sign a “sidewalk request” and “waiver of protest” in order to get a building permit. So yeah, they did.

      Link to municipal code section

      1. 16-0221. – Waiver of protest.

        (1)
        Prior to the issuance of a building permit relating to properties designated for sidewalk construction, the owner must sign a request for sidewalk or a waiver of protest; said waiver shall be recorded with the register of deeds office and shall deny the property owner, said owner’s heirs or assigns the right to protest the installation of sidewalks on designated public rights-of-way.
        (2)
        The lots for which waiver of protest forms have been signed shall be counted as in favor of sidewalks in determining the percentages in sections 16-0218, 16-0219 and 16-0220.

        That right there is some awesome ordinancing.

        1. Prior to the issuance of a building permit relating to properties designated for sidewalk construction, the owner must sign a request for sidewalk or a waiver of protest; said waiver shall be recorded with the register of deeds office and shall deny the property owner, said owner’s heirs or assigns the right to protest the installation of sidewalks on designated public rights-of-way.

          Doesn’t the First Amendment guarantee a right to air grievances with the government?

          Don’t see how this supercedes the Constituition.

          It’s retarded, that’s for sure. Any guesses on financial ties between the douchebag and “Big Concrete”?

        2. Sounds like a contract of adhesion.

  8. Rerun season already?

  9. So how is this not a “taking” under the 5th amendment?

    Are there minimum requirements for the sidewalks specified in the code? I wonder if they could get away with putting a few wood planks down and calling it a sidewalk.

    1. +1 corduroy road

    2. Better to sell it as a “sustainable” sidewalk.

    3. The sidewalk is likely in the right-of-way, which the city has rights to already. In all likelihood, the right-of-way is in the same place as when the lots were platted, which was well before the homeowners bought the homes.

      Not making a value judgment about the whole thing – just saying its not a taking.

      1. The right of way itself isn’t a taking… but the compulsion to add concrete to it is

  10. “Sidewalks aren’t protestable,”

    I hope he’s made to eat those words.

  11. I wonder how Dana Sande would react to a little plaque put on every segment of every person’s sidewalk:

    “The Dana Sande is a Control Freak Asshole Memorial Sidewalk”

  12. Pretty much the definition of corrupt when the lawmakers are also the adjudicators having given themselves absolute power over such questions and actions.

    1. To paraphrase “Kids in the Hall”, they are drunk with their very tiny amount of power.

  13. Remember kids, we need a special assessment to build roadz.

    1. … because all the taxes are already being spent to “buy civilization”.

  14. Why don’t they just walk on the grass? Why do they hate nature?

    1. Because everyone in that town knows grass is evil.
      (hence the concrete replacements)

  15. If you like your lawn you can keep your lawn!

  16. I’ve been battling my town on a similar issue for the past two years. Like every town in Pennsylvania, residents are required to directly pay for the repair and replacement for sidewalks AND curbs. Never mind that both are part of the public right of way and lay beyond my property markers, that’s the law, and if you don’t comply, you will be fined $185/day. Some residents have had to pay upwards of $15,000 to comply, especially when they live on a corner lot. I have pleaded with our Borough Council to change this ordinance, but the reply I received was, “This is the way we’ve always done it. This is the way everyone else has done it. We see no reason to change it now.”

    I have requested access to emails from our councilors under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know laws, and I’ve been stonewalled.

    I actually like sidewalks, but I also recognize that a community asset is a community responsibility. Besides the cost factor, this policy has resulted in a sloppy mess of a pedestrian infrastructure, because the citations are issued arbitrarily, the work is done by various contractors issuing inflated estimates, and is not performed on a block-by-block basis. It’s a mish mash of patchwork.

    I’ve wondered how is it that in a country founded upon the sanctity of property rights no one seems to know who owns what?

    Naturally, I have a blog devoted to this. Would love to hear opinions. http://www.walkablejenkintown.com

    1. It’s a stupid requirement, but given the requirement I don’t see any benefit in taking your neighbor’s money to maintain your sidewalk/curb vs forcing the homeowner to pay for it.

      I’ll reiterate it’s a stupid requirement, but inasmuch as anybody is going to get any benefit from the curb/sidewalk, it’s going to be the homeowner.

  17. what was that old noise about people only being governed by the consent of the governed?

    Tyrants!!! If 33 of 35 folks affected DON”T WANT a sidewalk there, then DON”T PUT ONE THERE.

    How simple is that?

  18. I wish my neighborhood had sidewalks.

    Wasn’t this requirement disclosed when they bought?

    Odd.

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