It’s hard to satisfy everyone, but Lawrence city commissioners have come up with a reasonable and more enforceable way to encourage homeowners to keep their sidewalks free of ice and snow.
Several weeks ago, the complaint being heard around Lawrence was that the snow removal ordinance, which included a five-day grace period, was too lenient. Now the gripe is that the new ordinance, which requires property owners to remove snow within 48 hours, is too hard on people who have trouble getting their sidewalks clear.
It’s not easy being a city official.
The new process actually has a number of advantages over the old ordinance, which was so cumbersome that it was virtually unenforceable. Under the old system, the city had to identify a violation, then send a letter to the property owner, who had another five days to clean the sidewalk before facing a possible $20 fine. It’s a rare occurrence for snow and ice to last more than five days in Lawrence.
Under the new ordinance, the snowstorm itself serves as notice. Residents are expected to have their sidewalks cleared within 24 hours of the end of the storm; after 48 hours they could be subject to a $20 fine, with an additional $61 in municipal court costs.
It’s unlikely the ordinance will be vigorously enforced, because it will be done mostly on a complaint basis and inspectors are being instructed to exercise “good judgment” for people who may be unable to shovel their own walks or when city plows push snow from the street onto sidewalks. Hopefully, that “judgment” won’t lead to another ordinance that is on the books but not enforced like the city’s fireworks ban. At least, when a significant violation occurs, the city has a better ordinance to deal with it.
Keeping sidewalks clear is a valid city safety issue, and a legitimate expectation for property owners. Those who can’t or don’t want to shovel can contact the city for assistance, talk to local youngsters who want to make some money or take advantage of some of the entrepreneurs who already are circulating fliers in some parts of Lawrence selling their snow-removal services.
It’s an unusual winter in Lawrence that creates the need to shovel more than two or three times a year. It’s unfortunate that being neighborly isn’t enough to take care of this issue, but lacking that kind of civic spirit, the city’s new enforcement policy is a reasonable step.