Sidewalk scuffle: Homeowners surprised by city code

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Lafayette resident Paul Webster said the sidewalks in his neighborhood are in need of repair.

However, he was shocked when he got a letter from the city stating it was his responsibility to fix the sidewalk on his Southlea property, and that he had 30 days to repair it or pay a fine.

“Opening that surprise mail and seeing 30 days or a minimum of a $50 fee, that’s hogwash,” said Webster.

Southlea resident Raymond Thomas got the same letter and said he thought it was the city’s responsibility.

“We pay tax dollars and we figure our tax dollars will be used to take care of public facilities,” said Thomas.

Lafayette City Code states homeowners are responsible for repairing or replacing damaged sidewalks on their property.

City Inspector Stanley Knight said he received complaints from several residents about the conditions of the sidewalks.

He inspected the area and mailed a letter to the homes in most need of repair.

“They’re bad,” said Knight. “There’s probably more than the 78 that need done, but I just feel that when I went through there I took what I considered the worst of the worst.”

The letter tells homeowners to fix the sidewalk within 30 days, and failure to comply will result in a $50 fine.

Knight said the letter is a template that should have been changed to notify homeowners of a potential fine if the sidewalk wasn’t eventually fixed.

“I wish I would have changed the letter,” said Knight. “It would have made it a lot easier on everybody.”

Knight said the letter gave a time limit, but said homeowners will not face a fine just yet.

“I will not hold anyone to those 30 days, by any means,” said Knight. “If it takes them six months to a year, I’m fine with that. I know it’s an expense. I don’t expect anyone to have it done in 30 days.”

Knight said homeowners have at least six months to a year to correct the problem, but that doesn’t stop residents from asking why they should be responsible for a public sidewalk.

“Well if it’s the city, I own part of the city,” said Webster. “Then I should be able to do with it, whatever I choose.”

Knight said he has spoken with nearly all of the 78 homeowners to work out a plan.

He said he will meet with Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski to discuss the repairs before any fines are issued.

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