DECORAH — The city of Decorah recently implemented a five-year program for sidewalks that has some residents questioning the policy.

According to City Manager Chad Bird, the program targets a certain section of the city each year for five years. It includes sidewalks that need to be repaired, and sidewalk installation where there are none.

While no vote was required on the sidewalk program, Bird said the Decorah Planning and Zoning Commission and the Decorah City Council supported it.

“My position is that sidewalks are required by city code. And they are required in subdivision code whenever a new subdivision is approved, unless, through the process, there is some exception,” he said.

Homeowners in the Bruening Addition recently raised objections to putting in sidewalks. Property owners in the first year of the sidewalk program were sent letters in August instructing them to make repairs or install sidewalks by Aug. 1, 2018. If the work is not completed by that time, the city will make the repairs and property owners will be assessed the cost.

Bird said among the concerns raised by Bruening Addition neighbors is the topography of the hilly subdivision, which would present a challenge to sidewalk installation, and the sidewalks’ impact on utilities, landscaping and driveways.

When the subdivision was approved in the late ’90s, Bird said there was no decision to exempt sidewalks.

Bird, who was not city manager when the Bruening Addition was approved, said there is a “broken understanding” of what would be required in the development.

A preliminary plat showed sidewalks “very clearly” on one side of the street, but not in a cul de sac. A final plat doesn’t show sidewalks anywhere, Bird said. And a development agreement that includes the covenants each property receives “clearly says sidewalks need to be installed within 12 months of a building permit,” he said.

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