Sidney residents Nancy and Tom Hedegaard visited Sidney City Council during the regular meeting Monday, Sept. 16, to discuss a permit needed to expand the size of their driveway. Sidney Public Works Director Jeff Hintz told the couple they needed to add a sidewalk in order to obtain a permit. Nancy said she didn’t see that stipulation in the city code.
“I’m not sure why I would be required to do a sidewalk when I’m just replacing my driveway,” Nancy said.
Hintz said exemptions in the city code she referred to during the meeting only apply if a person is building onto their home.
“Anytime anything is done in public right-of-way, it has to be permitted,” Hintz said. “Our codes you see in front of you require every zoning district in the City of Sidney to upgrade sidewalks. If you don’t have sidewalks you need to install sidewalks. The exemption only applies if you’re building onto your house.”
Hintz said increasing the size of and improving a driveway requires the implementation of a sidewalk. It was a code established in 2014 as part of a Safe and Accessible Streets Policy. He explained the policy recognized Sidney didn’t have sidewalks in numerous neighborhoods around town and they were needed for safe transportation of children, elderly and general population.
“That’s what we passed,” he said. “We wanted to promote alternative transportation methods other than driving all the time. Your post office is going to be a big advocate of having sidewalks. There are a lot of neighborhoods in our city that don’t have sidewalks. That’s why we passed these resolutions… so that in time, the whole city will have sidewalks.”
Sidney City Planner Forrest Sanderson said he agreed with Hintz’s interpretation.
“The exemption speaks to new homes or expansion of existing homes,” Sanderson said. “The request to do work within the public right-of-way is not exempt and does trip the trigger for the installation of sidewalks regardless of zone in the City of Sidney at the owner’s expense.”
Tom Hedegaard said that answer wasn’t consistent with other work that had been going on around town.
“As an example, over on 9th Avenue, someone added an addition on their home and redid their driveway and did not put in a sidewalk,” he said.
“Ninth Avenue did not come get a permit,” Hintz said. “I could actually go over there and tell them to tear it out and make them install sidewalks.”
Nancy said it didn’t make sense that she could do an addition to her home and be exempt, but just replacing a driveway required sidewalk installation. The Hedegaard’s live on a dead-end street and they didn’t believe the sidewalk gave anyone improved access. The cost difference amounts to “several thousand,” Nancy said.
“It should be a choice,” she said. “I shouldn’t be forced to put a sidewalk on public property if I choose not to spend my money that way.”
City council member Kysa Rasmussen moved for the issue to be taken to streets and alleys committee, which will review the topic and make a recommendation to city council. Council also agreed to review properties which did not comply with the permitting process.
In other news
Sidney Police Department reported 39 arrests for the month of August. Total offenses charged were six felony, 39 misdemeanors and eight “other.” Ninety-two traffic/criminal citations were issued, 239 written warnings, one parking citation, 16 accidents investigated and 11 DUIs. There were 635 calls for service.
A change order for the Waste Water Treatment Plant project was approved in the amount of $4,793.66.
Fire marshal report for the month of August accounted for 19 calls: 13 fire and six medical. Sidney’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) remains at a four on a 10-point scale, with one being the optimal rating. PPC ratings represent property fire protection and is used by insurers of homes and businesses in calculating premiums.
City council approved a letter to be sent to the Public Service Commission (PSC) in regard to the closure of the Lewis and Clark power plant. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 11:30 a.m., in Helena in front of the PSC to address concerns about the plant’s closure. Council mirrored their letter after one sent by Richland County Commissioners. Richland Economic Development is working on transportation for citizens wishing to attend the meeting.