The Berkley City Council has proposed an ordinance amendment that the council believes would be effective in managing sidewalk obstructions at construction sites.

The Berkley City Council has proposed an ordinance amendment that the council believes would be effective in managing sidewalk obstructions at construction sites.

Photo by Mike Koury

Berkley taking action to clear sidewalks during construction projects

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 21, 2019


BERKLEY — A proposed ordinance amendment from the Berkley City Council takes aim at sidewalk obstructions during construction projects.

The first reading of the ordinance was held at the council’s May 6 meeting and was approved 6-0. The second reading was scheduled to take place May 20, after press time.

City Manager Matt Baumgarten said Berkley worked with McKenna Associates, its engineering consultant, to come up with a set of standards to update its existing ordinance so that it would be more effective in managing construction sites.

“These specifically address many of the complaints that we’ve seen, as well as help us go a little bit farther in making sure that our builders are good neighbors by default, instead of just having a handful of them that we’re really proud of and several of them that we have nothing but issues with,” he said. “We want to raise the entirety of the standard of our developers, and hopefully they all sort of follow a good example of some of our really good builders out there”

Community Development Director Tim McLean said that some of the most consistent feedback the city received from both residents and council members was that they want to see sidewalks open at all times, and to limit the amount of time there are any closures during residential construction.

“One of the changes we’re proposing is that a builder keep a minimum of 5 feet of sidewalk space clear,” he said. “In the situations where the sidewalk is disturbed or damaged, we would require a builder to utilize crushed aggregate or cold patch to allow for unobstructed passage on the sidewalk.”

McLean said city officials also looked at construction site standards, to which they felt it was necessary to make it a requirement that a chain-link fence be placed around a residential construction site.

“The standards that we’ve had in the past, you’ve had the orange ... snow fencing and it falls down a lot,” he said. “It’s something that happens pretty consistently, so your requirement that there’s rigid fencing is something that I think is going to increase safety around those residential construction sites.”

Other additions that McLean noted included language that requires portable toilets not be placed on the sidewalk or the right of way; a standard that requires a refuse container be placed in a location that is approved by the building official, and that a builder must empty those containers as soon as they get full; and a measure that allows the city to require silt fencing if the building official feels there is a potential issue with soil and sediment runoff.

“The intent of the proposed changes is to enhance safety on our residential sidewalks and our residential construction sites,” he said. “We want to maintain pedestrian access to the sidewalk. We want to keep our construction sites clean, and obviously we want to maintain the aesthetic appeal in the residential areas.”

It also was noted that signage would be placed at sites where construction companies are working in residential areas, with phone numbers for both the companies and the city of Berkley. This would allow residents to call the company or the city if they think something is not up to code on a site.

“Those are written on there specifically, along with the permits,” Baumgarten said. “The permits should be posted on that board as well; that tells somebody who’s interested in what’s happening, so like if the neighbors want to know what the permit’s for, they can actually look at the permit itself.”

Mayor Dan Terbrack said that the amendment might look to some like it’s trying to be a punitive measure to developers in Berkley, but he would disagree with that assessment.

“It’s kind of a situation where we have had at least some developers in the city who have not been respectful neighbors, or necessarily respectful of our expectations, and it is incumbent upon us to make sure that those expectations are crystal clear for everybody, and they’re going to be applied to everybody equally,” he said.