Archive for Wednesday, December 3, 2008

City OKs tougher snow-shoveling rules

The city commission gave preliminary approval to enact tougher standards to combat snow-covered sidewalks.

December 3, 2008


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Get those snow shovels out.

City commissioners Tuesday decided to get tougher on people who don’t clear their sidewalks of snow.

Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a new ordinance that will require property owners to remove snow from their sidewalks within 48 hours after the end of a snowfall.

The city’s current ordinance allows up to six days to remove snow because people are automatically given a five-day grace period before they face a $20 fine. The current ordinance has been criticized by some residents who think people don’t shovel their sidewalks and instead wait for Mother Nature to melt the snow.

Commissioners on Tuesday said that wasn’t acceptable.

“We haven’t gotten this done to the extent that we need to for our pedestrian-traveling public,” City Commissioner Sue Hack said.

The new ordinance would eliminate the automatic five-day grace period. Instead, residents will just be expected to know that their sidewalks need to be cleared within 48 hours following a snowfall.

“The snow is your notice,” Commissioner Boog Highberger said.

The new process should make it easier for the city to actually prosecute violators. Under the present code, instances of people being fined for not shoveling sidewalks are extremely rare, staff members said.

Commissioners had considered increasing the fine from $20 to $50, but decided to keep the fine at $20 after they were reminded that each case also would include $61 in court costs for violators.

Staff members also said they would instruct inspectors to be lenient in issuing tickets in cases where city snow plows have covered up sidewalks near city streets.

“I think we’re going to have to rely on our inspectors to use good judgment,” said Jonathan Douglass, assistant to the city manager.

Commissioner Mike Amyx and Mayor Mike Dever both expressed concerns about whether the new regulations would do much to encourage more shoveling, and wondered whether the new rules would hurt the elderly and others who can’t shovel snow on their own.

Commissioners agreed on a 4-1 vote to move forward, with Amyx opposed. The new regulations will start in about three weeks after the final ordinance is approved.


justforfun 9 years, 5 months ago

thank god!! now we can get tough on people that throw out cig butts on my sidewalk, loud radios in my neighborhood, People who spit on the sidewalk, and don't forget 40 lashes with a wet noodle for cursing!!!TIP: if theres snow on the sidewalk stay home or call the freeT bus for an at home pick up!! Yea, I know it's not “free” but it soon will be after a couple more elections

Jennifer Dropkin 9 years, 5 months ago

It's about time. Last year after yet another ice/snow/rain event, there would be ice on Downtown sidewalks in front of one store, tamped down and uneven snow in front of another store, but sidewalks clear of ice and snow in front of a few others. The cleared walks were in the minority, and it's worse in the neighborhoods.It is possible to be a good corporate or private citizen and keep the sidewalks safe for shoppers and neighbors, and it's a shame that it takes more rigorous city action to provoke it.

justforfun 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey all you high school kids!! Wait until about 40 hours have passed and walk down the street where snow has not been showeled go up to these houses and offer to showel the walk for 40 bucks.(don't forget to remind them of the ordinence) When they resuse calmly pull out your cell phone and call the city and report them. Before they know it they will have an $81 bill from the city. Then that $40 you offered to do it for would look like a deal. LMAO

Kat Christian 9 years, 5 months ago

It's really pathetic that a city has to force human beings to be considerate of others. Not everyone can own a car. I see many folks walking. We have so many healthy young adults in this town that there shouldn't be any snowy sidewalks. Maybe if they'd stay away from the bars to prevent those hangovers they'd have enough ambition to get up early to shovel and notice those who aren't able to shovel and help them or just pay it foward just because. We've become a selfish nation don't let that trickle into Lawrence people. Let's be different - let's care about our neighbors. Merry Christmas - twis the season...

beawolf 9 years, 5 months ago

Sorry folks, this ordinance will be be dropped as soon as it's challenged in court. The sidewalks are owned by the city, it is their responsibility to keep clear. Private homeowners are under no obligation to maintain city owned property. If this were the case, the city could pass an ordinance that requires you to plow the street in front of your home, or repair cracks in the sidewalk or replace light fixtures or etc. etc. If my elderly father dropped dead of a heart attack because he was mandated to clear the sidewalk, I'd sue the city for a lot more than they would ever collect from fines. That said, here is nothing to stop them from taxing you to provide this service.The downtown situation is different (not sure about Lawrence) but most communities require sidewalk maintenance (as well as liability) as part of the right to do business.

texburgh 9 years, 5 months ago

A lovely unfunded mandate. Will the city provide each resident with a nice snow shovel or snow blower? Maybe one should be given snow blowers if the stretch of sidewalk in front of one's house is over a certain length. And who gets the fine in all those fine rental properties near downtown - or in front of apartment complexes? And what happens when it snows on December 23 after a resident leaves to visit grandchildren for a week? Shoveling the snow is about courtesy, not law. I can assure you I'll be keeping close watch on four homes this winter. Hack, Dever, Chestnut, Highberger - you better have every flake gone at the stroke of the 48th hour.

persevering_gal 9 years, 5 months ago

I think it's sad that Lawrence has to make shoveling a regulation. Try living further north. Shoveling your sidewalk on a daily basis is pretty much routine if you want to make it to class or work. The city is NOT making you shovel your driveway too, it's only the sidewalk on your portion of your property (yes, I know the sidewalk belongs to the city, but they can't wipe everyone's butt).I do believe that Lawrence needs to take into consideration about the elderly (which it seems as though they did and brushed it off), and also people who are not home during times of snowfall. Didn't your mothers ever teach you to pick up your room so you could walk around? Although you didn't OWN the house, you still lived there. Buck up Lawrence and go get a nice $20 shovel that will have to only be used a few times. Sure beats $61 for every snowfall.

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 5 months ago

Maybe we should pass an ordinance saying that politicians, in this case city commissioners, should represent their citizens instead of looking for ways to fine them.Now, whenever the city needs some money they just need to look for a neighborhood with a lot of elderly folks to fine $50.

gr 9 years, 5 months ago

"also would include $61 in court costs "So what happened to truth in advertising?If there is no way to pay just the $20 fine, then why lie? Why not say it is a $81 fine? Is deception just part of their character?

Laura Wilson 9 years, 5 months ago

I go to work at 8:00 and get home after 5:00 and sometimes not until late at night. Am I supposed to shovel in the dark? And what about when I'm out of town? I'd be happy to pay more in taxes for the city to shovel or hire a neighbor kid, but have you seen any neighbor kids out asking to shovel for you? My parents no longer live in the city but my dad has lung problems and my mom too many health issues to number, and I sure wouldn't want them out there shoveling the sidewalks! Yes, I sympathize with those who need to use the sidewalks, but I also sympathize with the elderly, the ill, and people who just aren't home. This was not well thought out, as usual.

disgustedagain 9 years, 5 months ago

I try to shovel reliably, but as a single person who works, I sometimes have trouble getting it all done before it's dark. I also happen to have a bad back which makes it a necessarily slower process. And yes I could hire someone, but in this bad economy, it's another $50 job I can't afford to pay someone to do. It's VERY hard on the elderly who will be having enough trouble paying their heating bills without having to hire someone to shovel their snow. Naturally, Lawrence picks the first year of a bad recession to start enforcing fines! They should have at least allowed a waiver for someone who is injured or elderly. Reducing the grace period would have been good enough. Jeez. With all the real issues in this city, people who get all bent out of shape by the terrible evil of not shoveling sidewalks must all be living (or wish to be living) in Alvamar land. Or maybe this is the shabby genteel approach to ignoring the current economic misery: I may not be able to afford to live in a better neighborhood, but I can sure call the city when my neighbors don't live up to my standards of behavior! Although I notice these people often are the middle class with more than one healthy male family member, who can get out and shovel quickly.

jafs 9 years, 5 months ago

It has always seemed odd to me that private property owners are asked to maintain city property.

nunya 9 years, 5 months ago

Can we as citizens then hold the city accountable for not clearing the city streets adequately??? The county clears its main roads far better then the city.

Janet Lowther 9 years, 5 months ago

You can not expect inspectors to exercise good judgment.Laws are what they say, and (these days, at least) you can not expect those who are charged with enforcing them to exercise good judgment. Standards must be set in the law itself.Remember, serial murder Dennis Rader got his jollies for decades enforcing city environmental ordinances to the letter.You can't assume that you won't get a Dennis Rader

Abbefaria 9 years, 5 months ago

Name one area of your life not affected by some city ordinance, state, or federal law. The rub on living in a democracy is that you have to put up with other people's crap. Every law that is passed is one less freedom we have. Of course, we don't live in a democracy anymore. But, historically, if there was such a thing as a democratic country, that would be the rub.

Tony Kisner 9 years, 5 months ago

We need an over/under on how long this last. The first ticket will start a flood of "What about them". Can a citizen issue tickets for violations as well? Get your camera with a date time stamp ready. Untied Soviet Lawrence Comrades, report on your bourgeois neighbor who is unwilling to do as we say!

LeBo 9 years, 5 months ago

First, the sidewalk is the property of a homeowner. The city has right-of-way on which things like driveway slopes and sidewalks are installed by the city. When the city replaces them they charge the homeowner. This is the same for water meters, electric lines, phone lines, etc.You should learn civic codes and ordinances before you start to complain. By the way, if a pedestrain falls; then the homeowner and the City of Lawrence are parties to blame.

Evan Ridenour 9 years, 5 months ago

"beawolf (Anonymous) says…Sorry folks, this ordinance will be be dropped as soon as it's challenged in court. The sidewalks are owned by the city, it is their responsibility to keep clear. Private homeowners are under no obligation to maintain city owned property."Ah, I always love it when I see someone stating their opinion as a fact. You sir are COMPLETELY wrong and if you had bothered to take just one minute to do the required research you would be aware of this. It is Kansas statutory law that the owner of the property IS responsible to maintain sidewalks that are abetting their property (Kan. Stat. § 12-1808).Chapter 12, Article 18 of the Kansas statutes lists all of the Kansas statutes involving city sidewalks if you would like to actually INFORM yourself.Now start shoveling your sidewalk fool! Some of us would rather run ON the sidewalk then on top of a bunch of snow!

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 5 months ago

When there is such a disconnect between leaders and the regular folks it kind of reminds you of the 3 knuckleheads in Detroit who flew their private jets into Washington DC asking for money.

laffn 9 years, 5 months ago

Who decides when the 48 hour clock begins? What is considered a snowfall? If it snows a 1" and continues to flurry for a day or so when is it over? Do you have to clear it to bare pavement or just to the icy hard pack? It is a joke.

any 9 years, 5 months ago

Eride - Actually KSA 12-1808 says the owner is responsible to REPAIR a sidewalk. I hate to break it to you but shoveling snow is not a repair. I'm all for being informed as well. Nothing I saw in my quick glance of KSA 12-18XX said anything about shoveling snow.

Evan Ridenour 9 years, 5 months ago

Any - I hate to break it to you but the argument being made by the poster I was responding to was that legally the city is solely responsible for maintaining city sidewalks and that was his justification for why the city can't make him shovel his snow... and obviously that is a false argument as is apparent by the statute I cited. Below I will re quote the statement since you apparently have trouble reading."Private homeowners are under no obligation to maintain city owned property."The requirement to shovel snow is a city ORDINANCE. My only point of citing state statutory law was to point out the blatant error in his assertion that the sidewalks were city property and that the city, not the home owner is solely responsible for maintaining the right of way on them. If you are required to maintain the condition of the sidewalk by state statutory law how can you claim that the city is solely responsible for maintenance..? Oh ya, you can't. The last thing anyone needs is yet another person spreading the false belief that they aren't required to maintain the safety of the sidewalks abetting their property. If being a considerate citizen isn't enough reason consider the fact that if a pedestrian injures themselves on your portion of the sidewalk due to the sidewalk being unsafe you hold liability for that injury.

bevy 9 years, 5 months ago

How does a sidewalk abet? Does it help your rob a liquor store? I think the word you want is abutting.Main Entry: abut Pronunciation: ə-ˈbət Function: verb Inflected Form(s): abut·ted; abut·ting intransitive verb1: to touch along a border or with a projecting part 2 a: to terminate at a point of contact b: to lean for supporttransitive verb1: to border on 2: to cause to abutOh, and by the way - this ordinance is stupid and intrusive. Also - who is going to pay the inspectors? Where will the money for staffing come from? Will new city jobs be created? Will this function like a weed ordinance, i.e. if you don't cut your grass we will cut it for you and send you a bill -- or will they fine the people and still expect them to shovel snow?Glad I don't live in Lawrence, as usual.

jafs 9 years, 5 months ago

If the sidewalks are private property, can homeowners then restrict access by fencing them or posting "No trespassing" signs?If I as a homeowner am going to be responsible for the costs of maintaining/replacing sidewalks, I'd like to be able to reduce the wear and tear on them.Similarly, can I choose to have another party than the city do the work?It seems to me at best that this is an unclear situation which warrants further clarification.

jafs 9 years, 5 months ago

To continue - if they are considered to be public and available to all, then they are more rightly city property than private, imho.

lisabeth2002 9 years, 5 months ago

persevering_gal-"The city is NOT making you shovel your driveway too, it's only the sidewalk on your portion of your property (yes, I know the sidewalk belongs to the city, but they can't wipe everyone's butt)."Actually, it's more like they can't wipe their own butts. "Wiping my butt" would imply that my sidewalk is actually my property.

BigPrune 9 years, 5 months ago

What if someone dumps snow on someone else's already cleared sidewalk in the dead of night after 48 hours have expired, and then the dumper calls for enforcement on the dumpee? Would the person getting dumped on get fined, and could the dumper get in trouble for dumping snow on someone else's sidewalk?I wonder what the Mayor's Global Warming Task Force would think?

BigPrune 9 years, 5 months ago

More questions....What if you are out of town when the snow hits? Does the City still fine you?Isn't this essentially a way of keeping people who mow lawns in business during the winter now that Lawrence doesn't allow for any new construction, except on a very limited basis? Merrill should be pleased.

jayhawkbarrister 9 years, 5 months ago

What happens when the property owner is not an individual? Who get the ticket if the property is owned by a trust? The grantor (probably dead), the trustee (a bank?), or thse beneficiary? What happens when a property is commercially rented? Is the owner or tenant responsible for snow removal?The inspectors will get to spend quite a bit of time in Municipal Court (and if you appeal, in District Court) testifying, identifying the malefactor's property, keeping pictures of unshoveled sidewalks, sitting in court for long hours for $81.00. Wouldn't it be ironic if the inspectors had to spend their days in court 48-58 hours after the latest snowstorm?

audibleangel 9 years, 5 months ago

Another mundane task that prevents law enforcement from fulfilling intended objectives as well as, you know, maybe saving some lives. Remind me again why we're so concerned with snow related injuries while people are getting robbed and shot to death only blocks from the police station and women are being sexually assaulted more than they should in a small town like this? There sure have been a lot of stories in the news as well about twacked out hood rats robbing people all over town. Meanwhile, cops were too busy camping outside parties and bars ready to arrest harmless drunk kids. This is Lawrence, Kansas, not east St Lou, but its no surprise crime has gotten out of hand considering the force is faaar too busy giving parking tickets (and in fact, switching up the signs over the city to trick people who regularly park in those spots, quick and easy $40 for the city) and giving crap to the poor bums for just existing, and NOW, fining people during a recession for un-shoveled sidewalks.Its bad enough we even have to deal with the extremes of winter in Kansas! Throw us a bone already.

Janet Lowther 9 years, 5 months ago

So, there are some bricks out in front of my house. Is that a sidewalk? They probably once were a sidewalk, but long ago mostly sank out of sight into the grass. . .

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