City regulation update: All new residences required to have lead walkways

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The city of Denison recently approved changes to building code that require lead walkways from a residence to the main roadway. This comes as some new homes have lacked readily available access.

Denison will soon require new residences to have front street walks following concerns of homes with easy access. The move comes after city staff and residents raised concerns about some new homes that have been built with rear access but no clear route to the main street.

City officials said these new developments could become a nightmare for both residents and first responders if these issues are not addressed so the City Council voted unanimously Monday night to amend city building regulations to require lead walks from the front door of residences to either the street or a driveway with street access.

The topic has been a recurring for city leaders in recent weeks and has been discussed at both the annual budget retreat last month and more recently at the Building Appeals Board meeting on July 8.

"Almost ever does that, but we don't have a code requirement of that," said John Webb, Denison executive director of planning and community development, during the July 8 meeting. "So, we do have some situations in the city where builders will take access off the rear alley and put the driveway off of an alleyway. Typically then, they'd build the lead walkway from the front door to the curb so that people would have access to the mailbox and maybe have better access to bring the garbage container to the street."

Denison fire crews test access to new residences that were built without an easily accessible route to the street.

The issue primarily impacts lots within the city's residential infill zones, which make up many of the older neighborhoods within Denison. These zones provide an alternative option for parking and allow for two vehicles in the rear yard if the lot is served by an alley. However, some residences have recently been built with the focus on rear access, but no real way to access the front of the property.

At the same time, the city's efforts to encourage infill building in existing neighborhoods has been so successful that the majority of the remaining lots are difficult to develop or come with their own challenging topography.

A three-lot development in the 700 block of E. Woodard has been a regular example of the issue facing infill development. The lots sit away from the roadway and are partially blocked by heavy undergrowth and a steep hill that makes it challenging to roll out trash or go to the mailbox.

Fire Chief Gregg Loyd said his staff have investigated the neighborhood and found it near impossible to get adequate access in the case of emergency. The only real access to the site is through adjacent alleys that are not suitable for emergency vehicles. During the testing, Loyd said  crews and hoses were not able to completely reach two of the three homes.

"We literally had to use the hose to pull people up that grade," Loyd said earlier this month. "The alley access is restricted and not available to a fire vehicle and limited ambulance medical vehicles."

Webb noted that while these issues are a vast minority of the city's residences, it is imperative for the city to get ahead of the trend and require access as it continues to grow.

"There are issues out there like this that we have yet to discover and are still discovering," he said.