Sidewalks, Who’s Responsibility is It? — The Property Owner's, That’s Who
Arlington County relies on its property owners to maintain the sidewalks on their property. The County's goal is to maintain safe facilities used by its public. An important part of this effort is accomplished through the High Density Pedestrian Concrete Maintenance Program, whereby property owners are responsible for constructing, improving, replacing or enlarging of sidewalks, driveways, alleys, sanitary or storm water facilities, curbs and gutters in the public easement or right-of-way adjacent to their property.
The legal basis for this action is Virginia Code §15.2-2404 et. Seq. which grants the governing body of a County the authority to impose upon abutting property owners the cost of walkways, curbs and gutters, etc.; and states that the cost may be imposed upon the land owner upon a two-thirds vote of the County Board.
To implement this program the Department of Public Works conducts field surveys to determine the condition of sidewalks, driveways, alleys, sanitary or storm water facilities, curbs and gutters in the public easement or right-of-way adjacent to property designated as High Density Pedestrian Concrete Maintenance Program areas.
There have been some changes adopted by the County Board concerning the High Density Pedestrian Concrete Maintenance Program:
The first significant change was the elimination of temporary asphalt sidewalk repairs by the County, except where necessary to preserve tree roots. Asphalt repairs to sidewalks frequently are unattractive, can create an uneven surface, and cost almost as much as permanent concrete repair. Thus, the County will no longer make such repairs with asphalt (except for a short-term remedy for hazardous conditions) or initiate assessments for local improvements concerning such repairs.
The second significant change was to reduce the cycle length for the maintenance of sidewalks, curbs and gutters, (that is, the average time the repair contractor would circulate through all streets in the County performing the necessary concrete repairs) to 3 years for High Density Pedestrian Concrete Maintenance Program areas. The cycle length reduction was accomplished by changing the replacement standard from the existing (where even the smallest cracks are replaced), to a standard that will address only the most significant and immediate problems, such as tripping hazards, large cracks, spalling concrete and displacement of over one-half inch. Minor cracks and displacements will no longer be repaired until they reach the new thresholds.
The County Board removed three "Low-Medium" zoning categories (R15-30T, RA14-26, and RA 8-18) from the Program. Thus, owners of property in such zoning districts will not be subject to assessments for local improvements. Higher density uses are associated with higher pedestrian trip generation and require more frequent repairs of public improvements for the protection of public safety.
Staff considered the types of uses permitted in the zoning districts included in the existing program and determined that the uses in the R15-30T, RA14-26 and RA8-18 zoning districts should be excluded from the Program because there is lower trip generation associated with uses in these low density residential districts, thus reducing the need for frequent repairs.
The remaining districts in the Program are associated with higher trip generation which the County Board has determined requires the public improvements to be repaired more frequently. With certain exceptions described below, the County will continue to initiate assessments for local improvements abutting parcels in the zoning districts described in the Resolution. On the General Land Use Plan, these zoning districts correspond to the Residential Medium, Residential High-Medium, and Residential High, Commercial, Industrial, Office, Apartment, Hotel, and Mixed Use land use categories.
The High Density Pedestrian Concrete Maintenance Program area is defined as parcels of real estate lying within the following zoning districts: RA7-16, RA6-15, RA4.8, R-C, RA-H, RA-H-3.2, C-1-R, C-1, C-1-O, C-O-1.0, C-O-1.5, C-O-2.5, C-O, C-O-A, C-O-Rosslyn, C-2, C-TH, C-3, C-R, CM, M-1, M-2; and the street right-of-way and other public property abutting these parcels of real estate.
The amended Program also will provide that property owners choosing to prepay for repairs will receive a $500 reduction in the prepayment amount per parcel to reflect, among other things, certain administrative cost savings to the County. In addition, when the required repairs are less than $500, the repairs will be performed at County expense.