Property Owner Guidelines

Ownership and Maintenance Responsibilities for Sidewalks, Curbs, Trees, Shrubs, Grass, Sewer and Water.

The following ordinances guide property owners in their responsibilities to maintain safe walkways, landscapes and structures.

Some of the most common questions that are asked by Town residents are “Who is responsible for the sidewalk, curb and/or tree that runs along the street in front of my property?”  While the question itself is simple, the answer can vary depending on the property in question.  Generally speaking, the ownership, maintenance and repair of all sidewalks, curbs and trees falls to the property owner in which they are located on.   However, further clarification of the intricacies of these regulations is warranted.

With very few exceptions, all sidewalks, curbs and trees along municipally-owned streets are located within a “Right-of-Way”, or ROW.  Per State statutes, all municipalities have a right to access the area adjacent to the street, which includes the curb, grassy area adjacent to the curb, and sidewalks for municipal purposes. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about ROW’s is that the Town “owns” them, and is responsible for everything within.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  It is important to know that just because the Town has a right to access and work these areas, it does not mean that we own the property, nor does it mean we are responsible for everything within.  All of the property belongs to the property owner adjacent to the area in question.  Ultimately, this means that all curb, sidewalk and tree maintenance/repair/removal falls to the property owner in which they are located.

The relevant sections of the Code of the Town of Clinton are as follows:

  • Water Service Issues
    • Chapter 142, Water
      • Section 142-1, Regulations
        • “C. Service connection shall mean a pipe or pipes connected to the main and extending into privately or publicly owned property or premises for supplying Town water thereto.”
        • “E. Water service tap installation shall mean the curb box and the portion of the service connection which connects the curb box to the water main and lies generally within the street right-of-way.”
      • The sections above indicates that the Town is responsible for the maintenance/repair of water connections from the water main to the curb box, and anything past that falls to the homeowner.

  • Sanitary Sewer Issues
    • Chapter 112, Sewers
      • Section 112-1, Definitions
        • SERVICE LATERAL” is defined as “That part of the sewerage system from the collection sewer to a point just beyond the curb line or to a point one foot beyond the edge of the paved roadway if there is no curb line.”
      • This section indicates that the Town if responsible for the maintenance and repair of service laterals from the sewer main to a point of 1 foot beyond the curb line.  Anything past that falls to the homeowner.

  • Tree Maintenance and Removal (discretionary)
    • Chapter 130, Trees and Shrubs
      • Section 130-7, Trees and shrubs near roadways and in the public right of way
        •  “A. All trees and shrubs along any public highway, public sidewalk, public right-of-way, public structure or any easement dedicated to the Town of Clinton for sight visibility or other public purposes shall be maintained by the owner of the property on which the trees or shrubs are located; provided, however, that the Town may cause such trees and shrubs to be trimmed or removed as part of any ongoing program of tree and shrub maintenance in any area of the Town where such program is being conducted for the health, safety, economy or general welfare of the Town.”
      • This section of the ordinance shows that the property owner is responsible for the maintenance of all trees located within the public ROW unless, at their discretion, the Town should choose to undertake the trimming and/or removal of a particular tree.  It should be noted that pursuant to Chapter 4, Section 19, the authority to undertake discretionary trimming/removal of trees falls to the Town’s Shade Tree Commission.
    • Removal of Small Branches, Leaves, Small Brush

  • Sidewalk Repair and Replacement (discretionary)
    • Chapter 122, Construction, repair and replacement of sidewalks
      • Section 122-37, Maintenance
        • “It shall be the duty of any owner and occupant of lands within the Town to keep the sidewalk and curbing abutting such lands maintained and properly repaired so as to minimize any endangerment to the public health, safety and welfare of any individual using the sidewalks. Except where the Town elects to install new sidewalks in accordance with § 122-33 or replace existing sidewalks in accordance with § 122-34, the owner or occupant of the property in front of which a sidewalk passes shall be responsible for all repair, maintenance and replacement of the sidewalk in front of the property. Additionally, such owners and occupants shall be responsible for the maintenance of trees and shrubs located adjacent to sidewalks in accordance with § 130-7 herein.”
      • This section of the ordinance shows that the property owner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of sidewalks located within the public ROW unless the Town elects to replace the sidewalks as part of a larger road improvement project, subject to budgetary allotments.  It also reiterated the responsibility of property owners to maintain trees and shrubs in the public ROW as well.

  • Grass, Brush and Weeds
    • Chapter 45, Brush, Grass and Weeds
      • Section 45-1, Duties of owners and tenants.
        • Keep all brush, hedges or other plant life, excluding trees, growing within 10 feet of any roadway and within 25 feet of the intersection of two roadways cut to a height of not more than three feet where it shall be necessary and expedient for the preservation of public safety.
        • Remove all grass, weeds and impediments from the abutting sidewalks and gutters of highways, and also from the portion of any street or highway abutting his lands, within 10 days after notice to remove the same.
        • All grass and weeds wherever located on any lands in the Town of Clinton shall be cut to a height of less than three inches from the ground.
        • Keep the lands free of brush, weeds, dead and dying trees, stumps, roots, obnoxious growths, filth, garbage, trash and debris where the same are inimical to the preservation of public health, safety or general welfare of the Town or which may constitute a fire hazard.
        • Comply with the requirements of the Public Health Nuisance Code (1953) and the Weed Control Code of New Jersey (1953), adopted by the Town of Clinton pursuant to Chapters 162 and 181 of the Code of the Town of Clinton, and any amendments to said codes.
    • Removal of Grass, Brush, Leaves, Yard Debris, etc.

With all of the above in mind, the property owner is the primary entity for the maintenance and repair of curbs and sidewalks, as well as the maintenance//removal of trees within the public ROW.  Albeit, as noted by the exceptions above, the Town may undertake some of these tasks at their discretion.  To that end, should any property owner decide to undertake any work within the public ROW, we encourage you to contact the Town of Clinton in advance to ensure that you obtain the requisite approvals and/or permits as required.

For any questions, please contact Rich Phelan at (908) 735-8616