Clearing our Sidewalks

Dec. 8, 2014: A majority of those attending tonight’s Board of Trustees meeting agreed that it’s about time to do something about clearing the sidewalks in the neighborhood when it snows. It’s a safety issue, especially for our kids. It’s a quality of life issue, and could well impact home prices if prospective buyers visit our neighborhood when half the sidewalks are piled high with snow, and people have to walk on the street. And it seems the winters have been getting worse lately as far as ice and snow are concerned.

Technically, under New Jersey law, the responsibility belongs to the individual homeowner, and many towns require homeowners to shovel within 24-72 hours, with significant fines for non-compliance. Bernards Township has no ordinance, however, so it would up to the Association to require it, and enforce it.

This is not something we consider viable, when we think about policing it, and fining people — and still not getting the sidewalks cleared. But we know that a majority of residents would prefer to have the sidewalks cleared of snow and ice whenever it’s needed. And certainly more than half of Liberty Ridge homeowners with sidewalks (which we estimate to be about 40, out of 161 homes) do shovel after each storm.

But the social as well as the financial cost of going after those who don’t shovel (especially if there’s a good reason for it, such as not being physically capable of doing it) is greater than the cost of getting a crew out a few times each winter, which incidentally employs some people and provides the community with a beneficial service. In addition, some parts of the Offering Statement appear to suggest that the Association has a responsibility to “administer, operate, and maintain” the sidewalks as if they were common property (this is something we’re consulting the attorney about).

So the question comes down to who should pay, the individual homeowners with the sidewalks or the community as a whole. After much discussion, it was generally agreed that the neighborhood as a whole benefits; that the homeowners who do not live on the cul-de-sacs share in cost of clearing them; and that spread over all of the homeowners the amount is likely to be quite small (and could be partly offset by savings from going paperless, which is our next objective).

Consequently we’re actively soliciting quotes for the sidewalk shoveling, and working to get the word out to the residents. Comments of course are welcome.

Here’s the December Board Meeting Announcement, which provided the context for the discussion and laid out the alternatives: LRNA – Dec Meeting Announcement.

2 comments

  • Sekar Sivapatham

    Hi

    Please consider the following before you take plunge into removing the snow from the side walks

    1. The cost can spiral which may increase the maintenance fees not just $2 per month
    2. If you take the ownerhip of snow removal , vendor can damage the side walks which Asociation will end up in eating the cost of repairing it

    3. Then association have to take the ownership of maintaining the side walks and you need more money set aside for capital improvement

    Overall, I am not in favor of association taking responsibility for removing the snow. It is the individual house owner responsibility.

    Hope this helps

    Sekar

    • These are all legitimate concerns, and the Board is not unanimously in favor of contracting out this service. However, I personally don’t believe the costs will escalate much (we’re talking about a very limited amount of shoveling), or that the Association will need to absorb any additional costs of repairing the sidewalks. Currently the sidewalks are not part of the Association’s “common elements,” which are covered by the Reserve Fund. Presumably, they’re the responsibility of Bernards Township, which has ownership of the roads. (This is to be confirmed by a check of our operating documents, and by calling the town.)

      And in any case, hand shoveling by the contractor is hardly likely to cause any more harm than shoveling by the homeowner, so apart from extraordinary damage (for which the the contractor’s insurance would probably be liable), the issue of regular wear and tear would be the same. So I’m not sure these considerations should be given much weight in the final decision, though it’s important to air these and any other concerns that residents might have.

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