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Realtors oppose sidewalk policy change
city budget pic
Mayor Gary Soiseth is proposing having the City inspect sidewalks at the point of sale of a property.

The prospect of a new sidewalk improvement policy has local Realtors up in arms as Mayor Gary Soiseth is proposing sidewalk issues be addressed during the point of sale of a property.

The tree-lined streets of Turlock, especially in the older neighborhoods, is a signature of the Valley town's aesthetic, but it has come at a cost. Soiseth noted that the City of Turlock has frequently fielded calls from citizens regarding the safety concerns of sidewalks cracked and broken by the older trees' expansive root structures. Some community members even vocalized what Soiseth called "angst" during one of the City of Turlock workshops in recent months, but now that angst is coming from the Realtors.

Soiseth is proposing that sidewalk inspections by the City of Turlock be performed with other tasks during the 30-day point of sale period for a property. Soiseth's policy recommendation is one way he is hoping to engender positive change during the budget adoption process that won't cost the City any money. 

"It is a lot easier to absorb $1,000 sidewalk repair at that point than it is in December when Christmas is coming and you allocated  a certain amount of money for gifts, say, and then all of a sudden you get a letter from the City saying within 30 days you need to fix your sidewalk," explained Soiseth of tying his recommendation to the point of sale.

Soiseth's recommendation was met with contention as one local Realtor said that the point of sale period is not only a critical time for the buyer and seller, but involves a multitude of people.  

"When you're talking about point of sale, you are involving the repair, inspection and the whole process into a 30-day period that is very stressful for both the seller and for the buyer, for the title officers, for the people who are instituting other repairs that are indicated in inspections, etc.," explained Realtor Lloyd Blackman. "Now, all of a sudden, we've done everything that we need to do to get a transaction finalized, but we are waiting for clearance from the City of Turlock to consummate the sale... I don't believe that the City of Turlock has the staff to handle the paperwork, the repairs or issue the clearances in that timeframe."

Blackman called the prospect of such a regulation "unbelievable" and indicated to 14 other Realtors in the audience showing solidarity. Blackman proposed instead that the City maintain its current policy — to send a letter to the homeowners that the sidewalk issue be fixed within a certain amount of time. If the homeowner is not able to pay to fix the issue and does not qualify for low-income assistance, the City is entitled to establish a lien on the property which can be cleared through escrow.

While it is unclear if a fee would be attached to the potential sidewalk approval process, Soiseth said he would take into consideration the Realtors' concerns and involve them in the process moving forward.

This policy change, as well as a slew of budget amendments, will come before the Turlock City Council on Tuesday when the Council is slated to adopt its two-year budget. The Turlock City Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall located at 156 S. Broadway.