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Royal Oak introduces revamped right of way rules

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 17, 2020

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ROYAL OAK — On Feb. 10, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance regulating public rights of way in the city.

The ordinance was previously known as Chapter 650 of the city code, which dates back to the mid-1920s and has been amended numerous times. City Engineer Matthew Callahan said additional sections were added that were pertinent at the time, but are no longer applicable.

Because of poorly defined and inconsistent policies and practices that conflicted with the city’s currently accepted uses, actions and encroachments, Callahan said the Engineering Division opted to rewrite the entire chapter to clean up the code, and make it easier to understand and administer.

“We got it down to 24 pages and listed 11 major changes to this code,” Callahan said. “Nothing we tried to insert into this is too controversial. We gave the (new) city engineer some reasonable guidelines to set reasonable policies for how the right of way is used, such as giving people more directions on licensing agreements.”

Callahan’s last day working for the city was Feb. 14. He retired after 24 years, and senior engineer Holly Donoghue was promoted to his position.

A licensing agreement between a property owner and the city is now required for the property owner to make changes, such as landscaping, to the public right of way.

“A lot of people like to put rocks and bricks and boulders and timber walls and things out there that we’ve kind of ignored in the past because there was nothing really clear in the ordinance about those things, and now it’s very clear,” Callahan said.

He added that, whenever the city observes a code violation, it will give property owners the opportunity to fix it by sending a warning letter, telling them exactly what the problem is and allowing them reasonable time to fix it before issuing a citation.

“So it’s just adding some clarity and formalities to what we’re actually doing today when these issues pop up,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “At least we have more of a rubric and a standard to go on versus kind of always dealing with everything on an individual, ad hoc basis.”

Some of the major changes include violation clauses; maintenance requirements; sidewalk billing clarifications; the addition of driveway approaches; updates on prohibited obstructions and obstructions that require permits or licenses; bicycling on sidewalks clarifications; and the removal of sections superseded by other laws and ordinances, such as regulations for the sale of merchandise on sidewalks and permits for privately built public sidewalks.

To read the full ordinance, visit and search for “2020 Public ROW First Reading February 10, 2020.” The ordinance will go into effect 10 days after the City Commission approves the second reading.

The next Royal Oak City Commission meeting is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Royal Oak City Hall, 211 Williams St., near Troy and Third streets.

For more information, call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.