Sturgis council passes first reading of sidewalk ordinance

STURGIS — The Sturgis City Council unanimously passed first reading of revisions to its ordinance concerning construction and maintenance of sidewalks.

State law gives the city authority to regulate sidewalks. In 2020, the South Dakota Legislature revised and updated many of the statutes concerning sidewalks. The revisions to Sturgis Municipal Code aim to reflect the 2020 revisions and changes to SDCL Chapter 9-46, Sturgis Staff Attorney Eric Miller told the council Monday.

He said the city maintains control over sidewalks within the boundary of the city and therefore it is the duty of the city to ensure that the sidewalks are in a reasonably safe condition for public travel.

“As part of this duty, the city may face potential liability for injuries suffered by neglect of this duty,” Miller wrote in his staff report to the council.

State law says that any owner of real property who fails to keep the sidewalks abutting or adjoining the property in repair creates or maintains a public nuisance and the owner is liable to the municipality for any damage or injury caused by neglect and responsible for the costs of abating the public nuisance.

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said Monday he had heard from several residents about the proposed revisions to the ordinance.

“They wanted to see if the city was going to be making any upgrades to sidewalks this year, which we do plan on doing,” Ainslie said.

In the past, the city has allowed any individuals who need sidewalk work done to include their project along with city’s projects so that they can get a better price on the work, Ainslie said.

“Also, what we have done is if someone has financial difficulties, we have provided them a zero-interest loan where the city would cover the cost. Then over a couple years’ time they would reimburse the city for that expense,” he said.

The city gets complaints about sidewalks periodically, then lets property owners know they need to improve their sidewalk per city ordinance, Ainslie said.

Here are some of the highlights of the ordinance:

The city council must pass a resolution of necessity prior to requiring a landowner to construct a sidewalk. State law expressly provides the necessary components of this resolution, and specific notice publication and mail requirements. The proposed revisions to the city’s ordinance adds these elements directly into the ordinance and ensures the ordinance is more in line with the 2020 statute changes.

The revisions provide that the Planning and Permitting Department is the main enforcement agency and specifically details landowner notice requirements including essential information contained in the notice. Essentially, the proposed maintenance, repair, and reconstruction revisions effectively streamline the process by shifting some decisions to the administrative arm of the city.  

Section 15.05.10 restricts any person from allowing building rainwater discharge to run over sidewalks. The city council requested this addition to the ordinance during discussions at its Nov. 15 meeting. While water runoff from rain or melting snow is inevitable, the purpose of the section is to protect the integrity and safety of sidewalks from damage or risks caused by intentional water discharge from building drainage pipes or gutters running over sidewalks.

Second reading of the ordinance will be at the Sturgis City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

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