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Never too soon to plan for winter’s worst

Going into a summer hiatus, Woolwich council had wintry weather in mind, making a few adjustments to the sidewalk snow-clearing bylaw first adopted in 2006.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the language of the bylaw was made more specific, indicating that clearing of snow does not necessarily require removal down to the concrete, but to a level of no more than 3.8 centimetres (1.5 inches). As for ice, there is an expectation that residents will spread something akin to pickled sand (sand laced with some salt) on the surface should ice accumulate.

As well, the revised bylaw now makes the township responsible for any sidewalk where snow has been pushed onto the walkway to a depth of more than a foot by road-clearing operations. Previously, that practice was limited to so-called curb-face sidewalks, such as those adjacent to major roads.

However, councillors didn’t fully endorse an engineering staff recommendation to avoid adding any additional exemptions to the bylaw, such as the “back lotted” homes on a stretch of Kressler Road where the sidewalk runs behind the fenced rear yards.

In a split vote, they agreed to add to the list the property owned by Denison Print at 61 Woolwich St. N. in Breslau.

Reiterating a position she brought to council last winter, Machelle Denison said the bylaw was placing a burden on the business, which was forced to clear some 1,300 feet of sidewalk surrounding the property.

Historically, she told councillors, there were no sidewalks in the area. Then, with the development of the Hopewell Heights subdivision, the sidewalks appeared but for unknown reasons, as most of it surrounds a vacant lot owned by the company. More inexplicably, there are no sidewalks on the more populated stretches of Fountain Street adjacent to the new subdivision.

To make matters worse, the vacant lot owned by the company can’t be developed because of a holding provision, pending the installation of municipal services, but Denison continues to pay hefty property taxes on the land. The addition of snow-clearing charges – the bill for removal and salt was some $2,000 in December alone – compounds the burden, she said.

“This is causing our company financial hardship.

“We’re looking to find an economical solution to removing snow from that sidewalk.”

Her plight met with sympathy from councillors, including Murray Martin and Mark Bauman, though both balked at exempting the Denison property from the snow-clearing bylaw, preferring instead to come up with some kind of cost-sharing arrangement.

“There’s some unfairness there – sidewalks they don’t want, and a property they can’t develop,” said Martin, who said the high standards Denison was trying to maintain at such a high cost were an undue burden. That case in fact led to this week’s changes in the bylaw.

“I want to make sure they’re not required to do any more than we do,” Martin said of residents meeting the township’s own standards.

Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley said his department would look at ways to address that property as it seeks services to clear sidewalks adjacent to municipal properties across the township.

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