Sidewalks can be found throughout the City of Helena in sporadic locations and in various neighborhoods, going back to the days when Helena first began. Since there are some areas that have sidewalks and others that do not, the city implemented ordinances for maintaining existing sidewalks and making it mandatory that sidewalks be installed in new developments.
Sidewalk hazards are plant obstructions (tree branches and hedges that grow over the sidewalk), construction materials (movable materials), and trip hazards (cracks, gaps, or elevation).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a sidewalk hazard?
A sidewalk hazard is an obstruction of any kind that blocks public travel on the sidewalk.
Who is responsible for constructing, maintaining, and replacing sidewalks?
Section 7-4-2 of the Helena City Code 7-4 states that the “abutting property owner” is responsible for building sidewalks to city specifications, and Sections 7-4-8 and 7-4-9 cover maintenance and repair of sidewalks.
I have a brick sidewalk, do I follow the sidewalk ordinance in regards to repairs?
No matter whether the sidewalk is constructed of concrete or of bricks you still have to follow the sidewalk ordinance. Brick sidewalks are specifically addressed in Section 7-4-10 of the Helena City Code. This states that you cannot replace a brick sidewalk with concrete unless it is approved by the city commission. In regards to trip hazards the same guidelines will be followed and that is any change elevation that exceeds ¼ inch in sidewalk sections or bricks are in violation of the ordinance.
If I live on a corner and I have to repair the corner section are there any additional regulations that I have to follow?
Yes. You have to follow not only the sidewalk ordinance, but you have to follow the Engineering Standards for the City of Helena which references Montana Public Works Standards Specifications and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is in the Engineering Standards that states pedestrian ramps shall be installed for any new construction or reconstruction of curb and sidewalk. Basically, if you are repairing the corner sidewalk and there is no ADA pedestrian ramp installed or if there is an older version of a pedestrian ramp you have to install one to current ADA standards.
If I am responsible for maintenance and repairs of my sidewalk, how do I pay for the repairs?
1. Pay the total amount in full;
2. Pay part of the balance, with the remaining balance being covered by a no-interest loan through the City sidewalk replacement program; or
3. Make no payment initially, and the full amount will be subject to a low-interest loan through the City sidewalk replacement program.
What is the sidewalk replacement program?
The sidewalk replacement program offered by the City of Helena is a loan package available to property owners to help offset the cost of sidewalk replacement. This is a no-interest loan over a period of 10 years. A statement is sent in December of the year the replacement occurred that explains the total amount due and the payment options. See the previous question for a list of payment options.
There is a tree blocking the sidewalk. Can I trim it or does the city do this?
It depends on the location of the tree. You may trim trees, brush, or other plant material on your own property. See Section 7-10-16 of the Helena City Code for height guidelines. Call the City of Helena Parks and Recreation Department at 447-8463 about trimming or removing trees, bushes, or other plant material from boulevards or other City-owned property. The Parks Dept. will issue a work order for the trimming or removal. They prioritize the work orders by starting with the most severe and hazardous first and then others as they come in. Cutting or removing trees from boulevards could subject you to a misdemeanor citation and a fine of up to $350 or up to 60 days in jail or both. See Section 7-10-8 of the Helena City Code. REMEMBER: call before you cut.
Can I repair my damaged sidewalk myself or does someone else have to do this?
You have a choice to either repair the sidewalk yourself or to hire a contractor to do the work for you. If you do the work yourself, you must follow the Helena City Code 7-4-2 which has guidelines that must be followed when repairing your sidewalk. You must also obtain a sidewalk permit from the Building Division in the City/County Building located on the 4th floor at 316 North Park Avenue. Permits cost $5 for the first 70 feet and then $2 for each additional 50 feet. If you decide to hire the work out to a contractor make sure they have a Helena Business License. You can contact the Building Division at 447-8437 or 447-8438 for more information.
Snow & Ice Removal
When it snows, who is responsible for snow removal?
Section 7-8-1A of the Helena City Code states that "Every owner of property within the city fronting on or abutting a paved or brick sidewalk on public rights of way must remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away, any snow or ice from that portion of the sidewalk in front of or abutting their property, from all portions of abutting ADA curb ramps and bulb outs, and from driveway aprons on rights of way that must be crossed for pedestrian travel, . . .”
Do I need to clear the full width of the sidewalk?
Yes. You need to clear the sidewalk from edge to edge allowing for a clear safe path for all pedestrians. Be sure to clear piles of snow and ice from ADA ramps, corners, bulb outs, and shovel drive ways and alley aprons where pedestrian travel crosses them. If you cannot remove all the snow from the sidewalk clear at least a 48 inch wide path on the sidewalk.
Where may I placed snow once it is cleared from the sidewalk?
Snow must be stored on the site from which it originated like a boulevard or yard, and if it can't, the snow must be hauled away. Snow may not be shoveled onto public streets, highways, alleys or sidewalks in such a manner as to create a hazard or potential hazard for pedestrians or automobiles. It is unlawful to pile snow in excess of 2½ feet in height from the street grade for a distance of 50 feet from an intersection. See Sections 7-8-7, 7-8-8, and 7-8-9 of the Helena City Code.
What must I do to comply with snow removal requirements of the Helena City Code?
Once the snow stops falling, you have to clear the sidewalk as soon as you can within certain times which are as follows:
- Commercial Districts (B2-B3 zoning districts) 9 am of the next business day (M-F), 12:00 pm of the next non-business day (S-S), or within 4 hour business hours after snow/ice has been deposited, whichever is shorter.
- All other areas must remove snow/ice within 24 hours once snow has stopped or other cause of the accumulation.
Every property owner must keep the sidewalk in front of their property including ADA access ramp, bulb outs, driveways, and alley aprons clear of snow and ice where they are used for pedestrian travel.
Someone in my neighborhood is piling snow in the street, can anything be done to make them stop?
Yes, if you wish to report someone for piling snow in such a manner as to create safety concerns, take pictures and record the vehicle make, model, license plate number, and, if visible, the company name so the proper individual(s) can be contacted to remove the hazard. Without this information it is very difficult to locate the party responsible for piling the snow to have it removed.
How do I report an address for not shoveling?
If you wish to report a sidewalk snow and/or ice violation wait until the snow has stopped falling for 24 hours or until the countdown clock expires to report locations. Complaints can be submitted anonymously using one of the following methods:
Be specific and describe the location of complaint by providing the address or a detailed description of the location (ex: on the NW corner of 11th and Rodney 3rd house in on the left) to ensure the area reported is the area inspected. If descriptions are vague or if reported before the countdown clock expires complaints may not be processed.
If I don't clear my sidewalk will I be notified to do so?
No. The only notification you will receive will be a letter containing an invoice for the amount owed to clear the sidewalk along with a civil penalty. The charges are 18 cents per square foot to clear the sidewalk plus a civil penalty of $50 or 30% of the bill whichever is greater. It means you need to plan ahead if you are going to go out of town and have someone lined up to shovel the sidewalks, ADA ramps, corners, bulb outs, and driveway and alley aprons used for pedestrian travel.
I received a l bill, must I pay it?
Yes. Upon inspection the sidewalk was not cleared of snow and/or ice resulting in a contractor being sent to clear the sidewalk. The bill you received is for the cost to clear and a civil penalty. Once a bill is sent, property owners have 30 days to pay it. If the bill is not paid, the city can enforce through collections or levy an assessment on the fronting or abutting property or both. In addition, there will be a charge of simple interest from the date the work was performed until it is collected.
Can I appeal the bill I was sent?
Can I appeal the bill I was sent?
Yes. Appeals must be submitted within 15 days from the date of notification using the Snow/Ice Appeal Form. Upon receiving an appeal, it is sent to the city manager to review and issue a decision. Once the decision is made, a letter is sent to the requesting party notifying them of the outcome of appeal whether approved or denied. If denied, a new bill is included with the decision letter stating the amount owed.