District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck has been named the interim approving officer for rezoning applications, development permit applications, various permit applications and sign permit applications.
The move followed the death last month of Paul Gordon, the District’s Director of Engineering and Operations, who had also been the approving officer.
“This decision can be revisited once a suitable candidate has been selected to fill the Director’s role,” Pinchbeck wrote in a note to council.
Sidewalk inspections tightened
The District has refined its sidewalk inspection protocol to better find problems and make repairs.
“It has been recommended by our insurance provider …. that municipalities have a policy in place in respect to sidewalk inspection and maintenance, in order to reduce the District’s liability and increase public safety,” noted District staffer Holly Brown in a memo to council.
“Claims against local governments in many cases can be mitigated through the use of the ‘policy defence’ which protects against several types of claims including negligence in the maintenance of sidewalks and for damages resulting from such negligence,” she wrote.
“This defence can be relied on if the District establishes a reasonable and rational policy, and, at a minimum, follows said policy.”
The refined inspection policy calls for sidewalks in the downtown core, commercial areas, schools and parks be inspected once a year and for sidewalks in residential and industrial areas to be inspected once every three years.
As well, “any defected sidewalks reported to the Director of Engineering and Operations by staff or members of the public will be inspected within 48 business hours of receiving the report to determine the necessary repairs in accordance with this policy,” it states.
Any height differential on a sidewalk of less than half an inch does not require a repair, a differential of half an inch to one inch is to be marked for re-inspection in one year’s time and any differential great than one inch is to be marked immediately as a repair hazard within 48 business hours.
Documentation is to include any work performed, the date repairs were made and, if possible, before and after photographs.