It seemed too hot outside to talk about snow removal Tuesday evening, but that’s when the Spokane Valley City Council took another look at a snow removal ordinance that’s been batted around for some time.
City Attorney Cary Driskell made the presentation of a reworded ordinance that will allow the city to fine property owners who don’t shovel their sidewalks.
Driskell called it “an educational snow removal ordinance” saying that it’s not a revenue generator for the city and promised that the city will do its part to solve the problem by minimizing how much snow is plowed up on sidewalks.
The possible fines are $51.25 if a sidewalk hasn’t been cleared within 48 hours – the second infraction for continuing to ignore the sidewalk snow is the same amount – and after three infractions the fine goes up to more than $100.
A snowfall of 3 inches or more will put the ordinance into effect.
Driskell said the ordinance takes a two-tier approach to enforcement: First priority are sidewalks in commercial districts, followed by Safe Routes to School sidewalks and then sidewalks in residential areas.
It would be up to the city manager to call a timeout on enforcement in case of a large and prolonged snow event, where clearing sidewalks becomes impossible because of the amount of snow falling.
Also, Driskell said, the city will link to resources for those 65 years or older and for those who are disabled and simply can’t do the work.
This was the first reading of the ordinance which received support from everyone on the council except Sam Wood.
Wood wanted to know why the ordinance mentioned 42 inches as the width of sidewalk that had to be cleared.
Driskell said many sidewalks are 42 inches wide.
“If you only have 36 inches of sidewalk, then you clear the 36 inches,” Driskell said. “If you have 46 inches of sidewalk, you are only required to clear the 42 inches.”
Spokane Valley resident Bob Blum told the council that the ordinance is the most unfair and arbitrary ordinance the council has ever considered, because it divides sidewalks into more or less important.
Blum said he’d been forced to give up some of his property for a sidewalk along 16th Avenue.
“If the city puts the snow on the sidewalk, the city should be responsible for removing it,” said Blum. “And why should homeowners maintain something that they don’t own?”
Spokane Valley resident Nina Fluegal said it would be cheaper to just pay the fines than to hire someone to shovel the sidewalk.
“And who’s going to shovel the Appleway Trail?” she asked. “No one seems concerned about that.”
Editor’s note: Spokane Valley resident Rob Blum’s name was misspelled in the original story. Also, the snow removal ordinance will first be enforced in commercial areas and on safe routes to school sidewalks, then in residential areas. The original story stated otherwise. This story has been changed.
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