Streets and sidewalks focus of next proposed city code revision

City staff are continuing their review and update of municipal code. Up next? Streets and sidewalks.

Staff has undertaken a major effort to review the city code, title by title, to remove typos, formatting errors and more significantly, correct inconsistencies and in some cases, make policy changes.

City working to update municipal code

All code changes require public hearings and City Commission approval.

During their Jan. 16 meeting, commissioners are scheduled to accept a first reading of proposed changes to Title 12, pertaining to streets and sidewalks, and set a public hearing for Feb. 6.

According to city staff, the bulk of the changes are non-substantive.

Some of the changes relate to parades and other public processions.

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Language regarding street processions would be consolidated in this proposed revision and street closure permits would be dictated by Title 9 instead of having separate ordinances for fun runs, motorcades, parades and other processions, according to the staff report.

Criteria for application review and appeal provisions are added in the proposed revision, providing staff guidance and developing a process for applicants to appeal staff decisions.

“These changes will eliminate inconsistencies within the OCCGF, and street closure permits for public events, other than in parks, would be administered by the City Manager’s office,” according to the staff report.

Proposed substantive changes include:

  • designating property owners as primarily responsible for violations of the Title including boulevard encroachments. This change is part of the overall strategy with OCCGF code enforcement. The strategy requires property owners to be responsible for their property;

    other proposed substantive changes include eliminating Public Works approved transit shelters from the codified list of specifically recognized boulevard encroachments and eliminating off street parking in the boulevard. Transit shelters perform a valuable function and should be authorized in the boulevard, but parking in the boulevard areas causes problems with easement access and should not be allowed, according to the staff report.

Minor changes to the encroachment permit process are also proposed. Those changes include: exempting non-advertising benches, non-advertising transit shelters, and non-advertising bicycle racks from the annual fee, at the discretion of the city manager or designee. The changes would also allow the permit to be discontinued, upon the written request of the property owner, with good cause shown, according to the staff report.

The proposal also includes changes for setting fees and insurance requirements. The proposed code change would allow applicable fees to be set by Commission resolution versus ordinance since fees may need to be updated more often. Codified insurance requirements for contractors would be revised to incorporate statutory limits set in state law, according to the staff report.

The proposed changes to Title 12 would also create a formalized appeal process for denial or revocation of excavation permits, sidewalk and curb permits, and street improvement permits.

“As with other revisions to the OCCGF, it is important to formalize these procedures to eliminate any confusion and provide applicants with appropriate due process,” staff wrote in their agenda report.

The proposed revision would also establish clear penalties for Title 12 violations,; re-assign sidewalk code enforcement duties from Great Falls Police Department to the Public Works Department; eliminate the special sidewalk and curb fund and construction costs assessments; clarify where bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks; and require that trees being removed from boulevards be replaced.