Efforts to curb unshoveled city walkways will go to a committee for further discussion, as the Spokane Valley City Council was unwilling to move forward with a new ordinance that would monetarily penalize snow scofflaws Tuesday night.
City officials have been looking at ways to crack down on home and business owners that do not clear public sidewalks of the white stuff within two days of a snowfall, which often forces pedestrians into plowed streets. It’s a dangerous situation that could be avoided if property owners get their snow shovels out sooner, said Cary Driskell, city attorney.
“We have a problem, and we have to do something about it,” Driskell said.
Under the proposed rules, property owners could be fined $51.25 if snow is not cleared from an adjacent sidewalk within 48 hours of when fresh snow stops falling. That amount would be the same if it happens twice within a one-year period but would jump to $102.50 for each additional incident within 12 months.
Exceptions would be made for those 65 and older if good-faith efforts were made to clear snow, but Driskell said there needs to be some teeth in the rules so compliance occurs.
“There are no easy answers,” he said. “There is a reason that so many jurisdictions do this.”
Council members, however, expressed discomfort at being too heavy handed when city plows and graders toss snow on walkways that quickly freezes, making the job doubly or triply more difficult on busy arterials.
“It becomes literally cement in minutes,” said Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard. “How do we solve this problem so it’s equitable to everybody?”
Council Member Ed Pace said there are some neighborhoods that are fenced in the backyard, such as on Dishman-Mica Road, but have a sidewalk behind it.
“So they have to walk around the corner, over their neighbor’s unshoveled snow, to clear their patch of sidewalk?” he asked. “That doesn’t seem right.”
Pace suggested forming a committee of council members, city staff and business owners to work out ways to work out any kinks in a potential ordinance before the first snows fall this winter.
“Let’s brainstorm and try again,” he said.
The issue will come back before the council at a future meeting.