Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Possible snow-clearing changes get cold shoulder

March 5, 2008


Related document

Snow removal ordinance locations 2003-08 ( .PDF )

Call them a bunch of snow angels.

City commissioners want city residents to know that clearing sidewalks of snow in a timely manner is an important neighborly act, but a majority of commissioners and staff showed little interest Tuesday in adding any teeth to the city's existing snow shoveling ordinance.

"I have to tell you that I think it is very unlikely that we're ever going to prosecute anyone under this ordinance," City Manager David Corliss told commissioners.

Corliss said the city likely wouldn't have the staff time to prosecute people under the ordinance, which has been on the city's books for several years. Under the current ordinance, the fine is up to $20, but residents are given five days following the end of a snowfall to clear the sidewalk before the case is turned over to Municipal Court for prosecution. Usually, Mother Nature takes care of the snow by then.

Staff members in the city's Neighborhood Resources Department said they do get complaints about the leniency of the ordinance, and compiled information that showed other communities often have higher fines. Some cities also have provisions that allow the city to contract to have the snow removed from a sidewalk, and then bill the property owner for the charges.

At Tuesday's weekly meeting, however, that idea failed to gain support from a majority of commissioners. Instead, commissioners told staff to look into the idea of tightening the amount of time residents have to clean their sidewalks. One proposal was to eliminate the five-day waiting period and instead allow residents to be "cited" for violating the ordinance within 24 to 48 hours following the end of a snowfall. The process still would be largely complaint-driven, but instead of mailing letters to violators, city inspectors would begin using door hangers to notify people of the ordinance provisions.

Bill Mitchell, a Lawrence resident who attended the meeting, told commissioners they either needed to toughen the ordinance significantly or scrap it all together.

"Legislating neighborliness is usually doomed for failure," Mitchell said.

Commissioner Boog Highberger was the lone commissioner who expressed any interest in higher fines. City Commissioner Mike Dever said he wanted to at least explore the idea of allowing the city to remove the snow and bill property owners.

"If we're just sending letters out and not accomplishing anything, that seems silly," Dever said.

Other commissioners, however, questioned whether the city had the staff time to handle the administrative matters related to contracting for snow removal and then billing residents. They also said notifying people that they were in violation of the ordinance, even though they likely would not get fined, was one way to provide public education on the need to shovel sidewalks.

Commissioners also largely threw up their hands on the issue of how to address concerns about snow plows covering up recently shoveled sidewalks. They said that is a frequent complaint, but said there appeared to be no easy answers.


LogicMan 10 years, 3 months ago

The solution is to get older kids up off their butts, and away from the TV/computer/video games, and outside to shovel snow for their families, neighbors, and the elderly.

gccs14r 10 years, 3 months ago

If the city won't enforce the ordinance, it sounds like a recipe for a lawsuit should someone fall and be seriously injured.

gr 10 years, 3 months ago

"a recipe for a lawsuit should someone fall and be seriously injured."

Maybe those TYPES of people shouldn't be out walking in the snow?

wysiwyg69 10 years, 3 months ago

law suits, yea that's the answer. that is whats wrong with this country everybody wants to sue everyone.

Bladerunner 10 years, 3 months ago

Im gonna sue you wysiwyg69 for that last comment.

WHY 10 years, 3 months ago

I don't understand why anyone shovels snow. I never shovel my drive way, I just drive through the snow and make tracks same way you do when you drive down a road that has not been plowed. Walking on a sidewalk covered with snow is easier than walking down a sidewalk that has been cleared but has ice on it from melting refreezing cycle. Hardware stores must be behind this legeslation so they can sell shovels, salt, and blowers for a problem that takes care of itself in a few days.

OnlyTheOne 10 years, 3 months ago

Let's see as I see it the Comission has now made the city of Lawrence at least partially responsible for someone falling on a property owner's uncleared sidewalk; therefore you could sue the property owner and the city and let the lawyers (or jury) work out "responsibility" percentages......

Similar to the woman who rear ended the fire truck a few years back on Kasold but was found only 50% (or so) responsible.

Joel Hood 10 years, 3 months ago

WHY?? If nothing else, shoveling snow off your driveway and walkways helps slow the erosion of the concrete that freezing and refreezing causes. When snow refreezes on walkways, it creates ice - people slip and fall and get hurt. It takes so little time for most people to clear a walkable path. It's called being courteous to people who walk or may even get around in a wheelchair on their way to the bus stop.

gr 10 years, 3 months ago

Multidisciplinary: "Do I get it right now?"

Ah ha! ;-)


"I clear my long sidewalk and wide driveway with my huge snow blower."

So clearing snow leads to global warming! From both the snow blower and creating more warming surface areas. Save the earth! Don't clear the snow.

"As an early morning runner," Running creates more CO2. Ban runners!

gerbilsniper 10 years, 3 months ago

if i'm gonna fall and bust my ass either way, i'd rather have an inch of snow cushioning my falls instead of a 2mil thick sheet of ice where that little bit of shoveled snow melted and turned to ice.

kansasredlegs 10 years, 3 months ago

The focus of the City should be on the main thoroughfares. The residential areas should be secondary to the sidewalks on 6th Street, Kasold, Clinton Parkway, Bob Billings Drive, Iowa, etc.

My own personal question for the City, would I be in violation for not shoveling my sidewalk "to nowhere"? I don't shovel this portion. I get many angry looks from pedestrians as they walk out of my freshly shoveled driveway and east portion of my sidewalk into the street. However, the sidewalk to the east of my house deadends at my property line and goes no further and one has to continue in the street. Due to this, last winter when I did shovel this portion pedestrians could seem to careless as they beat a path into the mud of my neighbors yard and the area between my sidewalk and curb. I spend money and time on taking care of this area, will the City come out and write citations for trespassing? I have gone so far as to contact Public Works to have this portion of the sidewalk removed at my expense. Public Works was sympathetic but was fearful of the backlash for the removal of a sidewalk when the public seems to want more sidewalks.

newsreader 10 years, 3 months ago

If the city openly admits it's won't enforce this, why even waste time and money working on passing it?

WHY 10 years, 3 months ago

Reality Check No I don't walk around town. I would bet that most people who have a property with a sidewalk drive to work as opposed to walk. So why don't the walkers carry a shovel and clear their own path since they are the one's using the sidewalk.

jumpin_catfish 10 years, 3 months ago

The answer is for the city government to something productive instead of messing with silly stuff like snow on walks. If someone doesn't remove snow from their walk in a reasonable amount of time and I slip on their property and injury myself the remedy is to sue the property owner not the city officials making new rules.

toefungus 10 years, 3 months ago

Why. What a good idea. I want to start a "Clear Your Own Path" movement. The shovel will be my logo.

FatTony 10 years, 3 months ago

Atleast after it snows the sidewalks are level, seriously how can you even come close to shoveling something that is not even close to flat.

gr 10 years, 3 months ago

"It only takes a blink for any perfectly healthy, able bodied person to step on ice carefully and cautiously, but yet still hit their head"

So, you'd say leaving snow on the sidewalk is better than shoveling it down so ice can form.

And, do ya suppose there might be places one may step besides the sidewalk, fall down and hurt themself? How about on a dry August day, someone steps off a curb and breaks their ankle? How about someone walks on a dry sidewalk and just falls flat on their face?

Is that any reason to sue someone because you hurt yourself? Take some responsibility for yourself. Realize that life can be dangerous. But don't go blamin' someone else for your misfortunes.

DoUntoOthers 10 years, 3 months ago

I just wish the good Christian Mustard Seed Church would clean its sidewalks (instead of just doing their own parking lot and ignoring their neighbors).

shorttrees 10 years, 3 months ago

Well, then if everyone who had a problem with the Mustard Seed sidewalks let them know, maybe it would get taken care of! Maybe starting with their senior pastor--

honestone 10 years, 3 months ago

What a racket the city could have. The people shovel their they are supposed to. Then the plows come and blow their snow on the clean sidewalks and then the city fines the homeowner. We could make a fortune.
Then the person that falls on the sidewalk could sue the property owners The homeowner loses their house and pretty soon only the Comptons and the banks own any property Good idea

staff04 10 years, 3 months ago

When I own the sidewalk, I'll take responsibility for it. Until then the city can maintain their own property.

(I shovel the city's sidewalk in front of my home, but if someone told me I had to under penalty of law, I'd tell them to take a long walk off a short pier.)

small_winky 10 years, 3 months ago

I clear my long sidewalk and wide driveway with my huge snow blower.

brookcreeker 10 years, 3 months ago

I fully support the ordinance. As an early morning runner, I appreciate the home owners and businesses that shovel their sidewalks to make them safe for pedestrians. I only wish the city would strictly enforce the mandate.

kansasredlegs 10 years, 3 months ago

staff04 (Anonymous) says: When I own the sidewalk, I'll take responsibility for it. Until then the city can maintain their own property.

staff04 is correct. Next time you run into one of the commissioners ask them under what authority does the City have to make its citizens provide uncompensated labor to maintain City Property. Last time I checked my property's legal description indicated that the City owned a ROW (right-of-way) that somehow creeped up into my yard past the sidewalk.

Why not just make the residents shovel the street? Such an edict from Kastle on the Kaw would save a bunch of money. While you are at it, pass an ordinance making us buy ice melt from Quick Shop to sprinkle in the streets.

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