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Woolwich looks to residents to step up sidewalk snow-clearing effort

Woolwich residents will need to keep their shovels handy and stock up on some salt, as the township wants you to do a better job of clearing the snow off of sidewalks in front of your homes.

Outside of Elmira, where sidewalks are cleared by a contractor, property owners are already responsible for clearing their sidewalks, required to shovel within 24 hours if the snow reaches a depth of 38 millimetres (an inch and a half). Under a new bylaw approved Tuesday night by council, the depth provisions no longer apply: clearing will have to be done whenever there’s snow or ice present.

That said, the township does not require sidewalks be cleared down to the cement, noted bylaw enforcement officer Kristen Cufaro. Instead, the goal is to have residents do a better maintenance job, particularly using de-icer when the walkways are slippery.

Under the new bylaw, staff will be able to enforce a wider range of compliance, she said. As well, it will reduce the township costs of having operations staff come out to deal with snow and ice that pose a risk but are under 38mm.

“In recent years, enforcement staff are having issues enforcing this bylaw because it stipulates a certain depth requirement. When staff receive complaints regarding snow and/or ice-covered sidewalks, staff will investigate but if the accumulations do not meet the depth requirement, staff cannot request the property owners to clear the sidewalks,” said Cufaro in a report to councillors meeting February 25.

“It puts the onus on residents.”

But without measurable guidelines, there’s a risk the township will be dragged into dispute among neighbours who’ll call to complain, suggested Coun. Larry Shantz.

Cufaro noted, however, that bylaw officers would be able to judge if that was the case, admitting the lack of guidelines would leave decisions at staff’s discretion.

The wider net is likely to catch some residents whose sump pumps discharge water onto sidewalks, causing ice to form in the winter, said Coun. Murray Martin.

The new bylaw would prompt people to use de-icer on the sidewalks to make it safer for pedestrians, Cufaro responded.

In Elmira, where sidewalks are cleared by a contractor via a special levy on all households in the town, the new bylaw aims to discourage people from pushing snow onto sidewalks.

“Another issue that enforcement staff are having is within the settlement of Elmira, where residents are pushing/dumping snow from their private properties (i.e. driveways and walkways) and they are depositing the snow onto the township sidewalk. This is done with the expectation that township contractors will remove the snow for them,” said Cufaro’s report. “Often, residents are depositing the snow from private property onto the sidewalk after township contractors have already cleared them. Staff have received several complaints this winter, from the contractors, of properties doing this activity. Not only does it cause obstructions for pedestrian traffic, but it also makes additional work for contractors who have already cleared the area.”

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