Fairhope council is updating laws for right-of-way work

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
Posted 5/18/22

FAIRHOPE — Contractors and property owners doing work that affects sidewalks and other public rights-of-way will have more regulations under ordinance changes being considered by the Fairhope …

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Fairhope council is updating laws for right-of-way work


FAIRHOPE — Contractors and property owners doing work that affects sidewalks and other public rights-of-way will have more regulations under ordinance changes being considered by the Fairhope City Council.

At the council work session, Monday, May 9, Erik Cortinas, city building official, said the changes would update the current ordinance adding rules for restoring damage done to rights-of-way and sidewalks as a result of construction and repairs. He said the ordinance has not been updated since 2005.

"That is something that has been a big deal as these contractors are working their way through the subdivisions, how they need to restore, how soon they need to restore, making sure they put zoysia instead of whatever other kind of grass," Cortinas said. "One of the things that we in the old ordinance did not have were specific time frames in which they had to have this work done."

He said the ordinance also gives the city more authority to enforce regulations to protect rights-of-way. The city can charge penalties between $50 to $500 for violations. A municipal judge could also require a violator to serve up to six months in jail.

"That's something when these contractors go into large subdivisions and they start going through all these streets and digging the bore pits, digging for the pedestals, doing all this," Cortinas said. "We're going to take into account what the disruption is that results from those things."

Councilman Jack Burrell said contractors often block rights-of-way when doing work in the area, forcing pedestrians to have to walk on the street.

"You've got a utility trailer with maybe construction materials on it, and they park in the right-of-way, but the right-of-way is the sidewalk," Burrell said. "One of my pet peeves is I see trailers, especially landscape trailers, not to pick on them but I see a lot of construction workers with trailers parked on our sidewalks all over town every single day and as a pedestrian, it's a safety issue. You have to walk into the street."

Cortinas said contractors working in some areas of the city have little alternative to blocking rights-of-way when working. On roads such as Scenic 98, the only alternative would be to block one lane of the two-lane highway.

He said contractors parking containers is also an issue addressed in the new ordinance.

"Parking of containers there, if you want to get the point across, charging them a fee per day, they'll probably take notice very quickly and I think you probably may hear about that if this gets adopted and in place. You're going to have some folks that are not going to like that, but it is what it is," he said.

He said the changes also add charges for balconies that extend over public property. The ordinance includes a one-time charge of $25 for each square foot or right-of-way covered with a minimum of $250.

"As it stands right now, if we have a building or developer that wants to or has to put a balcony over our entire right of way, they are not being charged anything for that and a lot of those things impact things we're trying to do, trees and events and maintenance and all kinds of things," Cortinas said.

He said the ordinance also includes potential charges for contractors who park containers overnight on rights-of-way for several days.

"The number we came up with was no charge for seven or fewer days, but beyond that $25 a day and understand that is with the approval to do it," he said. "That is not automatic that they get to do it. We get to evaluate the situation, look at the location, judge what kind of disruption that may or may not have and we have the right to tell them, no, you cannot put it there."

He said the ordinance would only apply on rights-of-way for city-maintained roads in the Fairhope corporate limits.

"Our permitting extends beyond the city limits, but not with this ordinance," he said. "We cannot govern or permit rights of way that are not the city's right-of-way. So, you're going to see a lot of intermingling with county roads and city roads or points where county roads and city roads may intersect or connect. That's something we do get a lot of calls about."