where the sidewalk ends

Brent Finnegan -- July 18th, 2006

The alleyway between Water Street and Court Square has been closed ever since city officials declared it unsafe back in late April. It’s been three months, for those of you keeping count.

There are two parts to the problem–the cause and the issue. The cause is simple: the support beams holding up the back end of the old Spanky’s building are corroded. The sidewalk and the building are joined at the hip. As Spanky’s falls, so falls the sidewalk… into Black’s Run.

But the issue is something I’ve been confused about for several weeks. eightyone and Rocktown have made recent mentions of the prolonged closure. As far as I can tell, there’s a three-way dispute over who’s going to pay for the repairs. The city thinks that Randall See, owner of the unsafe building should pay. Randall See doesn’t think he should have to pay for it since it’s a public alleyway (even though the city says it only owns the pavement on top of the structure). Roger Ritchie, who owns the building on the Court Square side of Finnigan’s, assumes no financial responsibility for any of it. The people at his office had no further information on the subject.


The closed-off portion runs beside Finnigan’s Cove. Donna Finnigan said, since a lot of Finnigan’s patrons park in the deck, her business hasn’t been drastically effected by the closure. But customers coming from Court Square complain. And some people hop the fence anyway, because it’s easier than walking around the block. She said a city crew has to repair the blockade almost every Monday.

Rocktown reported last month that “property owners and the city are starting to work toward a solution.” I see no indication of that. Via email, Jim Baker, the city’s Director of Public Works said, “…I do not have the answers to your questions. The issue is in Randall See’s hands and any comments or commitments from the city will be determined by the City Council.” When I talked to Randall See on the phone, he politely stated he had “no further comment on the matter.” So basically no one is talking about this.

It certainly seems that the city, Ritchie, and See are no closer to resolving the issue than they were three months ago. In the meantime, I’m sure drunken people will continue jumping the fence onto the faulty bridge.

-finnegan (no relation to Donna)

10 Responses to “where the sidewalk ends”

  1. danno says:

    yeah, those boards in the front there definitely look like fresh cut 2x4s.

  2. ivelostmyshadow says:

    The property is owned by Randy See according to the City’s online map http://arcims.ci.harrisonburg.va.us/website/city/viewer.htm

    There is an easement that allows pedistrians to pass through, but from what I can understand, the City cannot fix the sidewalk anymore than they can go onto any other resident’s property and do repairs. If they had the right to do that, then what would prevent them from going anywhere they want, anytime they want?

  3. finnegan says:

    While I agree with you that the city shouldn’t have the right to fix up people’s private property “willy-nilly,” the fact remains that there has been NO progress toward a solution. No one wants to pay for it.

    So, I guess my question is: if Mr See decides he’s never going to pay for it, does the sidewalk remain closed forever? It’s inconvenient and unattractive.

    My guess is that the city will eventually foot the bill for at least some of the repairs. But it seems like everyone’s waiting to see who will blink first.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have encoraged people to write the city manager. My hope was that, if enough people voiced their concerns, the city would hasten the search for a solution.

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