Max Denning

After multiple meetings of discussion and disagreement, the Cove City Council has agreed to have a first public reading of the mayor’s proposed sidewalk ordinance in March. Mayor Del Little said he is “pretty certain” the ordinance will pass.

Little has been working on a sidewalk ordinance for the City of Cove since November 2018, before he was even elected mayor. During the previous city council’s final meeting in December 2018, the council decided to punt the issue to the new councilors, who began their terms in January.

The ordinance — which proposed setting legal standards for the care and construction of sidewalks — was met with some trepidations from the new council. Some councilors believed the ordinance was harsh in terms of punishments for violations and also didn’t see the need for a sidewalk ordinance in a city with only a handful of sidewalks. Councilor Matt McCowan was one of the harshest critics of the ordinance.

“I think we need to start over,” McCowan said of the ordinance when it was introduced in January.

But, after a four-hour special meeting and work session on Tuesday, Little said the council has “cleaned up verbiage” on the ordinance and made it more user-friendly.

“Some of the pushback was not understanding some of the process, and I tried to explain that. I think that set the tone for the rest of the meeting,” Little said. “It wasn’t an intense pushback. They had some concerns they wanted to make sure we addressed.”

The amended ordinance is only four pages long and includes just four types of violations: failure to remove vegetation or obstructions, causing water to be deposited upon or to flow across the sidewalk, allowing leaves or debris upon the sidewalk to become a safety hazard, and putting signs or advertisements on the sidewalk that create an unsafe condition for the public.

The ordinance does not lay out any specific penalties for violating the sidewalk laws and instead utilizes Cove’s nuisance ordinance to level penalties for not agreeing to comply with the sidewalk regulations.

Little said the ordinance is specific enough for citizens of Cove to know what to expect from the city in terms of enforcement.

“We have some discretion for what the violations section contains,” Little said. “What we tried to do is give ourselves enough information in the ordinance and where its stipulated offenses it refers to the nuisance ordinance for how to do the abatement.”

The ordinance also makes property owners with public sidewalks along their property liable for damages if the sidewalk falls out of repair.

See complete story in Friday's Observer