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City of Sturgis passes second reading of ROW maintenance ordinance

STURGIS, S.D. – At their Tuesday night meeting, the Sturgis Council passed second reading of a right-of-way maintenance ordinance.

The Council passed first reading of the ROW ordinance at its meeting on Dec. 19.

The intent of the ordinance is to clarify and rectify any inconsistencies concerning right of way maintenance by property owners.

In most circumstances a right-of-way (ROW) functions similar to an easement which allows the public to come onto and use a person’s land, however the abutting property owner retains ultimate ownership of the land.

A sidewalk is an example of how a right-of-way functions. Sidewalks allow the public to safely walk near a road by providing a paved surface across a person’s property. The abutting property owner generally owns the property the sidewalk crosses and is responsible for sidewalk maintenance and ensuring the sidewalk remains unobstructed. Non-paved right-of-ways, such as boulevards and ditches function in a similar manner.

Throughout the city of Sturgis, maintenance of these rights-of-way is inconsistent, said Sturgis Staff Attorney Eric Miller. In most areas, the property owner maintains the ROW, however in some areas the city has taken on the maintenance, or maintenance is being neglected.

By policy and necessity, the city generally manages paved surfaces of bike paths and public roads in the community, however the city is not commonly responsible for maintaining the grass and private trees located beyond these surfaces. In most communities, the abutting property owner is responsible for maintenance of these areas.

Property owners are responsible for ensuring there are no overhanging trees, weeds or tall grasses.

“The purpose of these types of standards is to ensure that there are no obstructions or visibility issues, primarily for safety reasons,” he said.

Miller said the vast majority of areas the city is currently maintaining are the adjacent property owners’ responsibility, but the city does it because it’s not going to get done if they don’t.

Miller said there are sections of the ordinance that allow for provisions in cases of steep inclines or other specific reasons a property owner is unable to maintain their right of way.

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