Shoveling is the law, or is it?

Posted: January 2, 2013

The Winchester Star

Joey Nickens of Winchester shovels snow and ice from a sidewalk at Boscawen Street and East Lane in Winchester Monday.
Troy Rodgers of Winchester walks on an icy sidewalk on Piccadilly Street at North Cameron Street on Monday. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Mail carrier Perry Newman hangs onto a porch railing as he negotiates an icy patch while delivering mail on North Washington Street in Winchester on Monday. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Portions of the city’s sidewalks remain a potential hazard because some residents and store owners have failed to clear them of snow and ice despite a city ordinance that says they must.

“If everyone wants to see our city grow and prosper, we need to make it user-friendly to people on foot,” said Julie Read, co-partner of Wisecarver Communications at 222 S. Loudoun St. “I’ve seen several older people who are really struggling.”

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

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

The ordinance, however, is rarely enforced.

“We verbally explain the ordinance, and usually after that there’s no longer a problem,” said M.T. Brunson, master police officer. “I don’t know of anyone being charged.”

Nicholas West, 55, of Winchester, has a broken ankle and has to use crutches to get around. Some sidewalks, like those along Berryville Avenue, are nearly impassable.

“I stay in the street because it’s too hard going back and forth [along the sidewalks,]” West said. “It keeps me in severe risk.”

During last week’s snowfall, Judy Myers, manager of the Cork Street Tavern, made five or six trips to shovel the sidewalk outside the restaurant.

“It’s for the safety of the customer,” she said. “Usually we’re on it the first thing in the morning.”

Portions of sidewalks on Boscawen Street near the Loudoun Street Mall, on Cork Street, on North Cameron Street, and those near the intersection of Cork and Loudoun streets remained under ice and snow as of Monday.

The sidewalks outside two Shenandoah University buildings on Cameron Street also remained icy Monday, but Gene Fisher, director of the physical plant, said they would be cleared as soon as possible.

“I have a feeling someone overlooked getting down there,” he said.

In Berryville, tenants and occupants must remove snow and ice within eight hours of daylight following the snowfall or risk a $25 fine. If they can’t remove the sleet or ice, occupants must apply sawdust to the sidewalk until it can be removed.

In Middletown and Stephens City, occupants must clear the sidewalk within six hours after snowfall. If it occurs at night, then the snow must be removed by noon the next day. If not, the chief of police can enforce that the sidewalk be cleared at the expense of the owner.

“I don’t know if it’s enforced much unless there’s a complaint, but there are no complaints,” said Fred Wharton, zoning administrator in Middletown.

“It hasn’t been an issue so far. We’ve never had to do it. Citizens seem to take care of business.”

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com