Property owners' responsibility increased

Hampstead council votes to extend roadside areas residents must maintain

July 15, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Hampstead Town Council has voted to make property owners responsible for repairing and maintaining sidewalks even when their property does not abut them.

The vote came after the heated protests of a resident who called the town in February for fear that someone might trip over the damaged sidewalk in front of his house.

"Now, I was told I could be billed up to ... $1,000 for sidewalk repair," said David Traenkner, 27, of the 4200 block of North Woods Trail. "I have a plat that says my property does not abut the sidewalk."

Town Manager Ken Decker said it was "an unusual situation" because the town had accepted deeds to a 50-foot right of way for roads in the Roberts Field development, although the roads were only 30 feet wide. But property owners historically have had to mow grass and shovel snow on these strips, Decker pointed out.

After a public hearing, the council voted Tuesday night to amend the proposed ordinance to make homeowners responsible for property up to the right of way, not just to the sidewalk, and added responsibility to property owners for trees and other vegetation along the streets.

"It's like changing the rules in the middle of the game," Traenkner said after the vote.

Also Tuesday, the council heard an appeal from contractor Charles Stambaugh - and legal arguments from his attorney - of a decision by Decker to refuse to allow the contractor's company, Stambaugh's Inc., to do further work on the Westwood Park development or anywhere else in town.

Decker said there are serious problems with some 4-year-old storm drains and paving on two streets in the development. He sent a letter May 28 about his decision on Stambaugh to developer Steven G. Walton when Walton applied to begin work on infrastructure for the third and fourth sections of Westwood Park, which will include about 40 new houses and 48 condominiums.

"It's snowballing into a gosh-durned mess," said Stambaugh, of Union Bridge, pointing out that he has done projects in the town for years. He also said that no one called him about problems with the work, which was accepted at the time.

"There is damage on that street," he said. "We're not entirely guilty of all this damage, either. ... But I've still got to fix it."

A compromise was reached after the mayor and council members met in closed session. They voted to provide a list of items to be resolved within 30 days to Walton, the president of Westwood Development Co. He would have 30 days to respond, and the council would then reconsider Stambaugh's standing, said Councilman Christopher M. Nevin.

In other business, Hampstead Councilman Dwight Womer and Decker told the council about plans to visit a "splash park" in St. Mary's County to see whether a similar facility could be installed at the site of the town's swimming pool, which was closed this year. The park, with push-button spray fountains, requires no lifeguards, recycles about 80 percent of the water and would cost about $150,000 to install, Decker said.

The council also approved an ordinance to allow people to build attached rear decks without a zoning variance, if the decks do not extend more than halfway into the yard.

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