City says it will crack down on shoveling law

Posted: January 4, 2013

The Winchester Star

This sidewalk bordering Mount Hebron Cemetery on East Lane had still not been shoveled as of Thursday afternoon.
These sidewalks in the 400 and 300 block of National Avenue had not been shoveled as of early Thursday afternoon. The last snowfall in the area was on Saturday. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Police will begin enforcing the city’s snow removal ordinance today, according to a Winchester Police Department press release on Thursday.

“We take pride in being a walking community 12 months a year,” said City Manager Dale Iman, who said he saw someone fall on the snowy sidewalks this week. “We can’t be a walking community with ice on the sidewalk.”

“Our intent is not to issue a bunch of citations but to get our sidewalks passable and safe.”

According to the Winchester ordinance, property owners and occupants are responsible for clearing sidewalks within two hours after snow or sleet has fallen. If snowfall occurs at night, owners or occupants must clear the sidewalks by 9 a.m. the following day.

According to the ordinance, renters are responsible for clearing the sidewalk outside their property, not landlords.

Police can issue a notice to any business owner or resident who does not comply with the ordinance. If the responsible party hasn’t complied within 24 hours, the city can clean the sidewalk and charge the owner for any labor involved.

According to city police, however, the ordinance was rarely, if ever, enforced, and nobody has ever been charged.

Iman said the ordinance has flaws, and its language will probably be amended (such as in situations where there are multiple tenants renting a house).

Iman also admitted that the city does not always maintain its sidewalks like it should, but from now on, it will be in compliance.

“We’re not doing a bad job, but we can do better,” he said.

Lauren Cummings, spokesperson with the city police, said Thursday’s press release is intended to educate citizens and give them fair warning to clear their sidewalks.

“We appreciate your attention to this matter and to helping ensure residents remain safe when walking on city sidewalks,” the release states.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com