Community Family Government

Resident Blasts Borough Sidewalk Ordinance in Letter

Est. Read Time: 3 mins

It’s late August and the weather isn’t the only thing that’s heating up in Hellertown.

Hellertown Borough Hall

Hellertown Borough Hall

In a letter that was read into the public record at Hellertown Borough Council’s meeting Monday night, a resident told council a 10-year-old ordinance that requires homeowners to have their sidewalks inspected when a property is sold, and brought up to code if necessary, is holding Hellertonians “hostage.”

Eric Hersh requested the “immediate repeal” of the 2005 ordinance that in some cases also requires the installation of handicapped-accessible ramps at corners.

Hersh said many of his neighbors are also “outraged” by the ordinance and support its repeal.

He demanded refunds for residents who’ve already paid to make improvements, and questioned why handicapped ramps are lacking in the vicinity of some public buildings in town.

He also questioned why taxpayer money is being used to install ramps in parts of the borough he said he doesn’t frequent.

If pedestrian safety is the overriding concern, Hersh asked why the sidewalk repairs aren’t more often mandated immediately, instead of only when a deed is being transferred.

He also said he has contacted state Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18) about the matter.

Council president Tom Rieger said council will draft a response to Hersh’s letter.

Earlier in the day, he met with borough manager Cathy Hartranft and borough engineer Bryan Smith of Barry Isett and Associates to discuss the letter, he said.

The 2005 ordinance was enacted after the borough was served with an Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint, after it “was found not to be in compliance with current ADA requirements,” Rieger said.

Since enactment of that ordinance, more than 60 ramps have been installed using Community Development Block Grant money as part of an “action plan,” he noted.

Since 2010, the rate at which ramps are replaced with grant funding has slowed because the requirements for new ADA-compliant ramps have become more stringent.

“It has gotten rather expensive since 2010 to do ramps,” Rieger admitted.

Councilman Mike McKenna said the fact that CDBG funds have paid for the borough’s ramp projects makes Hersh’s claim that borough taxpayers’ money is being used to fund the ramps questionable.

In an email about a similar complaint Monday, borough zoning and codes enforcement officer Kris Russo–who was not at Monday’s meeting–explained that:

Each year the Borough does apply for a CDBG grant for installing ADA ramps in the vicinity of public infrastructure. Last year we had them installed along Depot Street near the pool. This year we are installing them around the (Hellertown) Post Office and Water Authority Park. Ordinance 683 requires homeowners to install ADA ramps if they are not in place at the time of deed change. The ordinance also requires homeowners to repair any sidewalk, curb or driveway apron that should fail inspection. This repair must happen prior to the deed changing hands. Through the years, local realtors have been getting better with making their clients more aware of the sidewalk inspection requirement.


Hersh, however, questioned the curb replacment requirement, since he said most of the damage to the curbs is caused by borough-handled street maintenance and snow removal.

In a July 21 post on Hersh’s public Facebook profile page, he encouraged anyone looking for a Lehigh Valley home to “check out our listing.” The post included a link to a residential real estate listing for a home in the 900 block of Juniper Road.

As of Aug. 18, the following message was displayed when the link was clicked on: “Sorry, the property you are looking for is no longer available.”

Hersh’s letter did not make reference to any borough property he owns being sold.

Rieger noted that in a case in which someone complains about the condition of a sidewalk, “Kris (Russo) investigates and the ordinance does give him power to correct the deficiency.”

A new ADA-compliant ramp is installed at the corner of Rentzheimer Drive and Water Street near the post office in Hellertown in August 2015.

A new ADA-compliant sidewalk ramp is installed at the corner of Rentzheimer Drive and Water Street near the post office in Hellertown in August 2015.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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