Ask Saucon Source: Who Owns the Sidewalks in Hellertown?

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One of the newly-constructed pedestrian bumpouts designed to help calm traffic and make it easier to cross the street at the intersection of W. Saucon and Front streets in Hellertown.

Note: Ask Saucon Source is a new feature that allows readers to ask questions of local, general interest, which we will try to have answered by local officials and experts on their behalf. To learn more about how to submit a question to “Ask Saucon Source,” please click here.

Q: If Hellertown owns five feet from the curb, why are we the homeowner responsible for paying to put in sidewalks? -Mark C.

Answer (by Hellertown zoning and codes enforcement officer Kris Russo):

“This subject comes up quite often. To clarify, the owner of the property actually owns from the curb back.  The five feet your reader is referring to is what’s known as a public right of way. In most cases, the right of way  includes the public street and sidewalks that are used for movement of car and pedestrian traffic. Because the sidewalks are public and included in the right of way width, there are ordinances that regulate this area to ensure the health, safety and welfare of movement along these areas.”

Russo shared a link to the Hellertown borough code, Art. III, Chapter 385: Streets and Sidewalks, which includes information about property owners’ responsibility for curbs, sidewalks, driveway aprons and the like. It states:

“Every owner of property abutting upon any public street or alley, and along private roads within residential developments and subdivisions, shall be required, after notice given as herein provided, to construct a concrete curb, sidewalk, handicap ramps, and driveway apron, or any of them, adjacent to their property or properties in accordance with the grade and line established or to be established by the Borough Engineer or the Borough Codes Office. Locations where existing conditions limit the ability to install sidewalks, partial or complete, shall be exempted from installing sidewalks at the sole and absolute discretion of the Borough Council. The cost of constructing said curb, sidewalk, handicap ramps, and driveway apron, or any of them, shall be paid in each and every case by the owner of the property affected.”

For further information about the borough sidewalk ordinance, click here.

One thought on “Ask Saucon Source: Who Owns the Sidewalks in Hellertown?

  1. As property owners in LST for more than 25 we have run into this type of problem more times than we like. We have what I refer to as the dead zone behind our home. It is the “right of way” between Hickory Hill Rd. and our property line. It is full of those God awful black walnut trees. If you don’t know about them, they pretty much kill anything that they overhang. We lost a small fortune in lilacs that we planted as a lilac grove on our property. The right of way as I stated is full of black walnut trees. Within two year we lost every lilac bush. These were not Home Depot Shrubs, these were full grown lilacs purchased from and planted by, a reputable Lanscape Design Firm. Oh well, no lilacs for us. I contacted the powers that be about removing the trees and was told if they were in the right of way, we could only remove three trees without having to jump through hoops. It was suggested to us to find copper nails and nail them into the black walnut trees. This is suppose to kill them. Copper nails were impossible to find (Oh for a good old fashioned hardware store). When penndot decided to widen HHR they came in with bull dozers and just started knocking every out of their way. I filmed it all from an upstairs window, knowing full well that this contractor was tresspassing on our property and destroying everything in its path. Trees were knocked down onto our property destroying about 25 of the 100 Forsythias that once again had been planted and purchased from a reputable Lanscape Firm. When it was all over, I contacted LST who passed the buck to penndot, as they should. I contacted them and got nowhere. Next I sent a registered letter to the proper person threathening a lawsuit for damages and replacement. Penndot called and sent a representative to assess the damages. When he arrived he was met with my husband and the Landscape Architect that we used. I don’t think this midlevel goverment worker was prepared for the paperwork and site survey presented to him. In the end, we got everything that we demanded. We chose to fill in the gap created with mature white pine trees, to block off the road behind us. Two years ago, my favorite tree dropped dead. It was in the right of way, it was dead when we bought the property but was being held up by vines and wires. It was the best Halloween Tree. Every year when the holiday came around, the tree became a roosting spot for turkey buzzards. It was the coolest thing you could imagine. To this day I still kick myself for not taking pictures. I just always thought it would be there, until it wasn’t. In a wind storm it was pulled up out of the ground. It was so dead, it was almost hollow and it was huge in diameter. Again this tree was in the right of way. Unfortunately it fell onto our property, taking with it, two 22 year old white pines and generally causing havoc to everything in its path. Guess what, Penndot who I now have on speed dial told us it was our problem because it was not blocking the road. If the tree had fallen the other way, Penndot would have been out in a flash, cut it up and removed the debris. Since it fell on us, and did not block the road, it was our responsibility. We have learned our lesson. When it is theirs it is theirs, when it missbehaves it is ours. I have about ten black walnuts in my right of way. So if there is anyone out there who would like to give me a good price to cut them down, we can talk. You don’t even have to take them away, since they don’t belong to us, just cut them down and cut them up. They can stay where they belong, in the right of way. I figure since we have been here for more than 25 years, and we are allowed to remove three trees a year without permission, Penndot owes us about 75 cuts. I will be happy with ten. Then I can plant mature white pines to completly block the road from out back yard.

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