Easement or Appeasement?

At Monday’s Borough Council meeting, the board respectfully listened to me read my statement, and at the end of it, I received a great deal of sympathy, but as I expected, I received no relief. I’d be a fool to think otherwise.

property marker
Property marker I uncovered that lies just before the edge of the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, I also received some interesting misinformation. I don’t believe that anyone came out and lied to me, but I do believe that because no one has actually challenged this policy in living memory, that our volunteer governing board, our borough solicitor, and borough manager find comfort in their own inertia.

First of all, Councilor Bunker informed me that he believed a local realtor had established a fund to help people in my situation. This realtor, Andrew Smith, informed me that he knew that councilors were spreading this information, but that it was false. Mr. Smith established the fund to help spruce up distressed properties adjacent to those he hoped to sell in order to improve prospects for sale and increase its value.

property markings
The green lines were added for clarity. This image does not show my property, but it is nearby. The markings along the entire length of my street are consistent with what is depicted here.

Secondly, after much discussion and expressions of sympathy for my plight, borough solicitor Sean Kilkenny insisted that the sidewalks were indeed my property (an assertion agreed upon by several councilors), and that the sidewalks were easements. This belies the existence of the property marker I uncovered one inch before the edge of the sidewalk (top), and the map issued by Montgomery County (above).

So which is it? Not that this necessarily has any legal bearing over my responsibilities, but if our own officials have no clue how this works, how much can we trust them with other important matters that affect our town?

Finally, my councilor Laurie Durkin explained that everything the borough does is consistent with the “international code of …” As I wasn’t taking notes, I didn’t remember what she said, but on Wednesday I wrote her asking if she could clarify. I continue to await a response.

By the way, Ms. Durkin and Councilor Justin Mixon both apologized for not responding to my original letters. Despite the fact that they come to the borough office at least twice a month, no one saw fit to inform them that they had actual mail from one of their constituents nor did they seem to ask.


  1. Two things come to mind:
    1. Even if you only own to the sidewalk as you depicted it, can’t the municipality pass an ordinance saying that all property owners owning property that abuts a street are responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalk?

    2. Is that stone really the limit of your property? In many States, the streets are merely easements and the abutting property owners own to the center line of the street. Their deeds may define the property line by metes and bounds that travel along the easement, but by common law, they actually own to the center line of the road.

    Sorry, if you have discussed this before. My point is that isn’t this ordinance really just a matter of law and not the location of your property line? I agree in principle with you that your town is really going overboard asking abutting property owners to actually construct and repair sidewalks. That cost should come out of the Public Works long term improvements account, not individual property owner’s personal accounts. To the best of my knowledge, most towns only ask that property owners clear the snow and encroaching vegetation.

  2. You should propose the need for a tax rebate on your municipal taxes for an amount equal to the cost of the repair, either all at once in tax the year claimed, or, in percentages over a 3-5 year period.

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