Last year the town of Robbinsville, New Jersey, adopted an ordinance that makes sidewalk maintenance the homeowner’s responsibility, but the town is fixing the sidewalks one last time that are already a problem. This is because the town is worried about the possibility of trip-and-fall lawsuits caused by sidewalk uplift. To fix the sidewalks, the town has asked the homeowners to decide if they want a smaller caliber tree to replace trees that have roots that are causing uplift, or if they want to have the roots shaved on the mature trees before sidewalk maintenance is done. If residents don’t decide, the town will decide for them. Either way, if the newly planted tree or the root-shaved mature tree dies within the year, the town will replace the tree. After that, the tree and sidewalk are the homeowner’s responsibility.
It is estimated that there are more than 3,100 yards of uneven sidewalks in 15 developments in town. With the situation being different in every development, the two areas with the worst problems will be addressed first. In many areas, yard trees were planted too close to the sidewalk by developers. In other uplift cases, the wrong type of tree was selected as a sidewalk tree and planted in the narrow strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. The hope is that as each area is worked on, lessons learned will be used to more smoothly work on new areas. “We’re looking forward to moving forward,” said Council President Ron Witt. “Any lessons learned in the first two developments will apply to the next phase, and, hopefully, after that we’ll be working like a fine oiled-machine.”