Efforts to enforce greater snow-removal compliance on city sidewalks were pushed to the curb Tuesday evening.
Spokane Valley City Council members expressed reluctance to attempt to crack down on property owners who do not remove snow from adjacent public sidewalks. They also were not keen on city staff attempting to wrest an additional $300,000 a year from residents in the form of fees or taxes, or use funds from the existing budget, to clear snow from walkways on busy arterials or near schools.
“I think we’re just going to have to use some common sense out there,” said Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard, who said that Northwest winters sometimes mean there is simply too much snow – as there has been in recent weeks – to be removed from city sidewalks.
The issue has been discussed since last August, when city legal staff briefed the council on a proposed ordinance in which fines could be levied against property owners who did not clear sidewalks within 48 hours. After some discussion, it was decided an ad hoc committee would look at options and encourage compliance of city nuisance provisions without penalty.
There is also the problem of neighborhoods where fences abut sidewalks with little to no space in between, meaning that plowed snow can only end up on sidewalks – or back in the street. Some council members expressed reservations at moving fences back 3 feet to allow for a “pocket” where snow could be placed.
“It would be worthless (to property owners),” said Council Member Ed Pace. “Nobody is going to landscape or water that 3 feet.”
City Attorney Cary Driskell said that left the city few options other than to educate property owners that clearing sidewalks is their responsibility – and that business owners who hire private snowplow companies to clear parking lots should also budget for clearing adjacent sidewalks, as well.
“What I think I’m hearing is that we don’t want to do anything else,” he said.
Woodard said that Spokane Valley is “famous for helping neighbors” and that residents who are unable to clear their own sidewalks should be able to find resources – possibly a list provided by the city – to do that.
A follow-up report to the council is expected at a future meeting.