Schenectady County

Schenectady to enforce paving rules

The city will crack down on driveway paving rules this summer.

The city will crack down on driveway paving rules this summer.

Engineer Chris Wallin sent a letter to 50 or more paving companies in the Capital Region, informing them of the city’s existing rules. He plans to begin enforcement June 1, after getting the message out to residents, who will be left holding the bag if their contractor breaks the rules.

The property owner is the one who is fined in those cases, Wallin said.

“That person is assuming that paver is a reputable contractor,” he said. “I’ve been getting a lot of people saying, ‘I thought the contractor was OK.’ ”

He’s trying to get contractors to follow the rules so they don’t leave owners in trouble.

“We’re not trying to be the bad guys,” Wallin said.

But so far, his efforts haven’t been welcomed by contractors. When he sent out the letter, the only responses he got were complaints.

They complained about the $50 permit fee, saying it was too high. Wallin wasn’t sympathetic.

“They are not going to lose money on a job because of a city fee. They’re going to pass that through [to the property owner],” he said,

Some smaller companies also complained the city requires contractors to have insurance.

“Certain contractors may have a hard time getting insurance. They may be a smaller operation,” Wallin said.

But some of those contractors aren’t following any of the other rules, either, he added, calling them “weekend warriors who come in and try to get away with it.”

“The more responsible people we have in the city, the better,” he said.

The main rule for owners to know is that they will be fined if they pave over their entire yard and driveway asphalt can’t cover a concrete sidewalk. That means pavers cannot spread the asphalt over the sidewalk when repaving a driveway.

If the sidewalk was long ago covered in asphalt, that’s no help. The paver must dig out the asphalt and redo the concrete.

“They are not grandfathered in,” Wallin said.

Concrete is required because it holds up well for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, Wallin added. The surface is also smoother, he said.

Asphalt covering concrete is “almost a trip hazard,” he said, describing bumps and lips in the thin covering.

The other indication of whether a company is getting a permit is the paver’s schedule, Wallin said. Typically, it takes the city 24 hours to process a paving permit. Pavers who offer same-day service are almost certainly breaking the law.

Wallin also warned that pavers might not tell residents if they ask for pavement that breaks the law.

“People still think they can pave their yards. We wanted to make them aware of it,” he said. “I would love it if a contractor met with a homeowner and said, ‘We can’t pave as much of your yard as you want.’ ”

But, he said, many companies will simply do whatever the homeowner wants — and leave them to face the consequences.

They can only pave up to 5 feet by 5 feet without a permit — enough for a “landing pad,” Wallin said.

Larger projects require a permit in which city officials will decide whether the proposal is appropriate.

A walking path could be approved, while paving the entire yard would generally not be allowed.

The rules have been in force for years.

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