THE CITY SCOOP: Blinking safety lights and home ownership incentives

Each week, Herald reporter Brandi Jewett answers your questions about local government, laws and other local topics.

Q. So, I live near the Hugo’s on South Columbia Road. There’s a dog/walking path that runs behind the store and intersects with 13th Avenue South. I appreciate the city installing signs and the option to hit blinking warning lights to help alert drivers you’re crossing the street, but is there any way to keep the lights blinking all the time? There are so many children and families that live in that area and use the path during the summer.

A. While it may sound like a good idea, city staff say keeping the light blinking could actually be more dangerous.

According to Grand Forks Traffic Engineer Jane Williams, the purpose of every traffic control device is to alert drivers of a specific condition. These devices include signs, road striping and associated flashing beacons.

As you know, pedestrian signs and crosswalk markings are present all day, every day — much like the snow that will be blanketing the region soon — and alert drivers of the location of the crosswalk and the potential for pedestrians.

In the case of your neighborhood crosswalk, when a pedestrian beacon is flashing it gives the driver the message that a pedestrian is occupying the crosswalk.

Studies have shown that there is a higher rate of vehicles yielding to the pedestrians when the flashing beacon is on sparingly rather than all the time.

I’m told it’s sort of like Chicken Little proclaiming the sky is falling — after a while people don’t pay attention nearly as much.

Q. Does the City of Grand Forks have any incentives for people looking to upgrade to a new home? I’m referring to people that build a new home, get a property tax break, and their current home — possibly their starter home — now goes on the market for someone to purchase, which might be more affordable.

A. If you’re willing to buy a new home, you could be in luck.

According to City Assessor John Herz, the Grand Forks offers a new home real estate tax exemption to the first owner to occupy a property after it’s completed by the builder.

It applies to new single-family homes, condominiums and townhouse properties. The exemption applies to the first $150,000 of the property value, and runs for the first two calendar years after the residence is complete and occupied by the owner.

So far this year, 166 homeowners have taken advantage of the program

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Have questions? Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108 or (800) 477-6572 extension 1108, email bjewett@gfherald.com, follow her on Twitter at @GFCityBeat or see her blog at citystreetbeat.areavoices.com.

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