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City leaders want more sidewalks through front yards

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ-TV) - More homeowners around town could soon see sidewalks built in their front yards, and the city is forcing you to pay for it.

On Chestnut Street a sidewalk could soon be installed, and the city is making the people who live here pay for it. Problem is, people who live in these houses don't want it but they say the city doesn't seem to care.

Jared Johnson, homeowner: "A new estimate is just under $8,500."

Johnson has lived on Chestnut Street for about six years. He says when he bought the house, he didn't know the city had plans for his property: a sidewalk for people to walk on running through his front yard.

Johnson: "It'll be a foot off of our property marker up on the corner then it'll cut across here in the driveway which will take away a lot of our driveway space, unfortunately."

It was 10 years ago that the city council approved a decade long extension on the sidewalks project. But time is up.

Johnson says he put together a petition against the sidewalks, and more than half of his neighbors signed. But the city is still moving forward.

Dana Sande, city council president: "Sidewalks aren't protestable. So once the city determines that the sidewalks should go into your neighborhood, you have one of three options: you can either put the sidewalk in yourself, you can hire a contractor to put it in, or you can have the city hire a contractor to put them in and be special assessed the fee. There are no other options."

With nothing left to do, Johnson will likely pay as much as $100 each month in special assessments.

Johnson: "We were actually considering doing some possible addition on our home and some remodeling but it's kind of going to put us in a hard place again."

The previous city council offered them a 10 year extension, but the current city council isn't willing to hand out anymore extensions. They say it’s because they want Grand Forks to be a connected community.