Sidewalks — 5 ft. wide, really?

Before you read on — I am NOT negative on sidewalk repair/replacement. I personally have repaired my sidewalks and prepped other properties that I own in advance of this topic without prodding. My issue is with the process being used to force a change in the city’s sidewalk policy.

The Iowa DOT and SUDAS have design documents (based on ADA law passed in 1990) for sidewalks. It clearly states the rules that our city should use when addressing sidewalk issues. This document does not require 5-foot wide sidewalks; 4-foot is just fine. All of our driveway approaches have 4-foot wide sidewalk sections. Sidewalk ramps are 4-foot wide. SUDAS Standard Specifications, Division 7, Section 7030 or Iowa DOT Design Manual Chapter 12A-2 do not require 5-foot sidewalks.

In the proposed sidewalk ordinance presented to Council, “Sidewalk Maintenance is declared a public nuisance.” This statement makes the city administrator your single point of appeal. Recall that in a past council meeting jail time (i.e. the court process) was removed from all nuisance code enforcement. Now the city can abate a nuisance and apply the cost to your property taxes, but the CA can choose to give you a “get out of jail free” without asking anyone.

Nuisance enforcement is largely complaint driven. Why is the city choosing to enforce this nuisance ordinance on their own accord at this time when they do not enforce front yard parking (among other nuisance ordinances) when complaints are filed? IMHO this seems like selective enforcement to me. I personally invite any council member to go on a tour of this city’s nuisance violations with me.

Why are existing sidewalks not “grandfathered in” like the lack of egress windows and old substandard electrical systems on rental properties (both are fire safety/lifesaving issues)? As far as I know ADA is not forcing this sidewalk issue. The 1990 ADA law only requires every city that employs more than 50 people to have a “transition plan” in place as of 1992 and implement improvements as streets are improved. Where is the “transition” plan for Marshalltown? I have requested access to this plan. The city engineer is trying to locate it …