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rant

sidewalks

So some time in July we got a certified letter from the City saying our sidewalk was a tripping hazard and needed repair. We could do it ourselves, or hire a contractor to do it, or leave the City to do the job.

According to the original citation letter, you have 45 days from the day you received the letter to decide which of the three options to take, and inform the City; if not, they'll assume you want their contractor to do the job, and will rip out all the century-old bluestone flagstones and pour concrete in their place. We didn't want to see that done, so we hired a contractor. (The timing was a bit dicey -- their contractor was working a few blocks away, and we were worried that they might show up and jackhammer the bluestone just before our contractor showed up to fix it -- but it all worked out OK.)

In fact, the sidewalk behind our house was in much worse shape than the sidewalk in front, but we didn't have a citation for the back sidewalk, and it's been an expensive year, so we decided not to get the back sidewalk fixed at the same time. Our contractor leveled the stones on the front sidewalk, put some mortar in between them, mortared together a few cracked pieces... I don't know that it was a spectacularly good job, but decent. I called the relevant City office to ask them to re-inspect the property and remove the violation from their database.

So today I got another letter from the City. They did not remove the violation from the database. They said the repair was insufficient, because it involved patchwork and they insist that the whole flagstone be replaced (which they didn't tell me in advance, and which the contractor didn't know). Furthermore, they said the back sidewalk is a trip hazard and needs to be fixed -- presumably without any patchwork, replacing entire flagstones. And I don't think we have enough flagstones to complete the job, so we would need to buy some. Bluestone flags don't come cheap; in fact, they're hard to find at all.

The neighbors on both sides also got citation letters, a month later and not by certified mail (so they have the option of claiming they never received the letter). One of them has a corner lot, with much more sidewalk, and his contractor is quoting a figure about five times what I paid for my front sidewalk, so I think he's going to have it all replaced with concrete -- which means he'll make his bluestone available to me and the other neighbor. And they say there's another person on the block who still has a bunch of bluestone piled up in her back yard from when her sidewalk was replaced with concrete. So maybe between all of these sources, we can at least keep a few properties' worth of century-old sidewalk.

We're going to talk to the local Historical Society and see what they recommend.

Comments

Good luck with the historical society. Hope you get to save the history along with the "improved safety" they seem to be after.