Sidewalk law raises questions

OBSERVER Photo by J.M. Lesinski. The sidewalk out front of Gowanda Village Hall, where citizens have been expressing some concern over part of the local sidewalk law.

GOWANDA — A number of citizen comments and complaints around the village’s sidewalk maintenance law prompted a response from the board at their most recent meeting.

Village Attorney Deb Chadsey addressed the concerns in broad terms, since many of the complaints were framed solely to each individual complainant. “I’m not exactly sure what people’s concerns are,” Chadsey began. “I guess I’m just kind of informing that.”

Chadsey then briefly paraphrased the law for those in attendance. “The village of Gowanda has adopted a local law with respect to the maintenance of sidewalks in section 44.8,” she stated. “And it says that ‘no person shall place merchandise or obstructions of any kind upon a sidewalk. No person shall place or suffer barrells, crates, articles or other obstructions, and that every owner or occupant of a building is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk.”

From there, Chadsey noted that public easements may be the cause of some confusion.

“When you own a lot, (or) a piece of property in the village and you look at your deed, you will see that you own all of the property,” she commented, adding. “In many cases, you actually own the property to the middle of the street, that’s how fee title works, but there are public easements across the property, so there may be a public easement for the street, and there will certainly be a public easement for the sidewalk.”

OBSERVER Photo by J.M. Lesinski. Pictured, the corner and crosswalk at East Main and Mill streets in Gowanda, where sidewalk law requirements have some residents voicing their opinions on the matter.

Ultimately, the status of the sidewalk is therefore upkept by the homeowners, according to the local law. “Under village law, homeowners, while they own the fee interest, are still obligated to maintain the sidewalk,” Chadsey stated.

Off that notion, Chadsey also commented on how the law would work in cases of litigation. “If someone slips and falls, the owner of that property may be sued, often the village is also sued, but from the village’s perspective, homeowners are required to maintain and operate the sidewalk in front of their home.”

Following Chadsey’s explanation of the law, no further comments on the matter were made.

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