Building owner fined for failing to clear sidewalk

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids got several complaints about the unplowed sidewalk in front of a vacant building in the East Hills neighborhood, which led to the property owner getting a fine.

Grand Rapids has seen 58 inches of snow this season, about three inches more than average. When sidewalks aren’t cleared in a timely manner, it can cause problems.

“It sucks. It sucks to be a runner and have to run on these type of sidewalks,” runner Emily Tanaski said Tuesday of the snowy sidewalk in front of 773 Wealthy St. SE. “Sometimes I want to go on the road, but then it’s not safe. I feel like I’m going to break my ankle every time I try to go out for a run on these sidewalks.”

The building west of Eastern Avenue has sat vacant for a few years. Derek Coppess, the owner of 616 Lofts and 616 Development, bought it about a year ago with plans to redevelop it into apartments this spring. In the last few months, there have been several complaints about its snowy sidewalks.

“It’s definitely more time-consuming because I have to pack other shoes and plan more time into my day so that I have time to change and everything and I won’t be late for work,” Abbi Cairns, who works across the street at Georgina’s, said. “I slipped the other day I was picking up my paycheck.”

The city had to come in and plow instead. On Tuesday, 24 Hour News 8 found a force plow notice on the building’s door dated Dec. 28. The city says it charged Coppess $195 to remove snow.

Grand Rapids property owners are required to keep their sidewalks passable. The regulation is about more than safety: For some people like Clark Goodrich, who has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita — which causes joint and muscle problems — and uses a wheelchair, an unplowed sidewalk can cost him his independence.

“Basically it means that I’ll be not going wherever I wanted to go,” Goodrich said.

Most cities in West Michigan require property owners to remove snow off their sidewalks. Goodrich and David Bulkowski, the executive director of Disability Advocates of Kent County, are adamant that people follow those codes so people who have mobility impairments can go about their day.

“Don’t wait till it thaws because people are literally, it’s stopping their lives,” Bulkowski said.

When 24 Hour News 8 started looking into the complaints about 733 Wealthy Tuesday, the city informed Coppess. He later told 24 Hour News 8 the sidewalks had been cleared. On Wednesday, they were passable.

Coppess also said the sidewalks were plowed between Dec. 28 and Feb. 7, but didn’t specify which dates and apologized for the oversight.

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