February 11, 2012 in City

Snow rules will be considered

Ordinance would regulate dumping of snow on public property
By The Spokesman-Review
Fines proposed

The proposed law creates three fines for violators (including court costs):

• Plow companies who push snow onto public property could receive a fine of $513.

• Homeowners could face fines of $52.

• Owners of commercial properties could face fines of $257.

That guy who pushed all the snow from his driveway into the street could have to pay for blocking your morning commute.

The Spokane City Council on Monday will consider making it illegal to dump snow into the street, parks or other public lands.

“It’s always been a problem,” said Street Director Mark Serbousek. “We’ve tried to get them to comply the easy way.”

Namely, he said, by asking nicely.

While the city has claimed that dumping snow in public streets was illegal, what was on the books didn’t mention snow and is a general law about placing debris in the rights-of-way, Serbousek said. City officials said they are unaware if the law was ever used to penalize someone tossing snow onto public property.

The problem isn’t so much people who point the outflow of snow on their snowblowers so it flies into the street (though that would be illegal under the proposal). It’s mostly aimed at private plows that push large berms of snow into the right-of-way, Serbousek said.

The ordinance would make an exception to the ban for tossing snow in planting strips and adding to snow berms created by city plows, as long as adding to the berm doesn’t create hazards to drivers or pedestrians.

The proposed change to the city’s snow rules also would lower the fine on property owners for neglecting to shovel their sidewalks from $103, including court costs, to $52, including court costs.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said the change was made accidentally and the administration will recommend that the council amend the proposal on Monday to maintain the sidewalk fine at $103.

City officials say they haven’t issued tickets for violating the sidewalk law in recent memory.

Heather Trautman, the city’s code enforcement supervisor, said the city sent 20 warnings to property owners who didn’t clear their sidewalks after a snowstorm last month based on complaints.

She said the snow plan developed after snowstorms in 2008 called for the city to start issuing warnings before moving to ticketing.

The city should start enforcing the sidewalk-clearing law, said Greg Wing, the computer training program instructor for Inland Northwest Lighthouse for the Blind.

Wing, who is blind and uses a white cane and is a member of a city committee focused on improving sidewalk access, said he often must walk in the street after snowstorms because pathways aren’t cleared. He said people who use service dogs have similar problems.

“Obviously, that’s very dangerous,” he said.

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