City Not Kidding: “Clear Your Sidewalk”

Brent Finnegan -- February 12th, 2010

photo by Randy LoweryToday the city announced that starting Monday, February 15, they will issue citations for unshoveled sidewalks in the city.

From the release sent out this afternoon:

“Under city code section 6-1-15, sidewalks are to be clear within three hours of the end of snowfall or by ten in the morning if the snow has fallen overnight. Due to the significant snowfall accumulation and the frequency of storms, the city has allowed more leeway than usual in this matter.”

Snow photo by Randy Lowery.

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79 Responses to “City Not Kidding: “Clear Your Sidewalk””

  1. Eso says:

    Didn’t one of the towns around here have prisoners out shoveling snow?I’d rather see them then teachers doing it. If it could be done without exposing property owners to liability if a poor felon falls and hits his noggin on someone’s propety, then I don’t have a problem putting them on a snow clearing chain gang.

  2. Brooke says:

    …or people could just man up and do their civic duty to their fellow pedestrians by clearing their walk and stop whining about it and looking for someone else to do it for them.

  3. seth says:

    apparently a number of cities clear the walks of those in violation of their snow removal ordinances. i thought that seemed like common sense….

    having grown up on mason street, i share the sentiment that people should get out and get walks shovelled. however, i think that when the city acknowledges that they aren’t patrolling for uncleared walks, but rather enforcing the ordinance based on the volume of complaints received, they could be asking for trouble.

  4. Seth,

    Your summary of what is in your link is seriousliy distorted. You make it sound like they just do it for free. Not only do they make people pay the expenses, but in most of those cities listed the violaters must pay a fine on top of the expense. I also note that all of these cities are north or by mountains (Boulder) where they regularly get lots of snow and the cities in question certainly have more and better snow removal equipment than we do here in Harrisonburg, making it easier for them to carry this out. There certainly is not the slightest hint of any tolerance in any of these cities for bozos not clearing the sidewalks, with in many of them people supposed to do it within two hours of the cessation of snowfall.

    Again, nothing here to justify whiners saying, “I don’t need to do it; let the city do it.” Bah!

  5. Eso says:

    Yadda Yadda Yadda. I was thinking of some of the older landowners downtown who neither have the income to pay someone to clear their sidewalks or the physical ability to shovel snow.

    Really, I think the landlord should be responsible for snow removal. He is responsible for maintaining a habitable house. If the roof leaks, the well goes dry, or the furnace breaks, he is responsible. I don’t see this is any different. It boggles my mind that city thinks it can redefine the landlord tennant relationship.

  6. Brooke says:

    A leaky roof is one thing – that’s a material defect with the house itself. Snow removal is not part of that, in my mind. Landlords don’t come mow the grass in front of a rental house. They don’t come take out the tenant’s trash and then put the trash cans back when the trash is collected. They don’t have to pick up litter the tenant leaves in their front lawn. Those things fall to the tenant.

    As far as the elderly, I think that’s another part of being a good neighbor. If someone has an elderly neighbor that they know can’t shovel their walk, or pay someone to shovel, then they should ask if they can help.

    I just think it’s a shame that the City has to enforce this at all. If more people thought of their neighbor this wouldn’t be an issue at all.

  7. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Many landlords do mow the grass.

  8. Eso says:

    Yes, everyplace I’ve lived the landlord does mow the grass and clear the snow. The trash is generated by the tennants, they carry it out. They probably wouldn’t be cleaning up the yard of stuff you dropped, but would “remind” you if you didn’t.
    The owner of the property is responsible for it. That is one reason people rent – they know that their rent I’d going to be x dollars for the next n months, with no surprise bills and no maintence. I agree it needs to be done, but it’s the landlords job. Truthfully, I am far more worried about the roads being clean than the sidewalks.

  9. Bell says:

    slightly off topic, that photo was taken in front of my office on saturday when no one was there. the snow was swiftly dealt with on monday morning

  10. Lowell Fulk says:

    Thanks for doing research on this Seth. Sounds like some good background work done on possibly approaching city council and requesting that they upgrade the Harrisonburg ordinances. Requesting can be done in a forceful fashion. ;o]
    This is good civic involvement.

    Barkley is right in that information must be represented accurately, and also that in such situations there is little tolerance, except the actual inability to comply, for those who don’t get to the task of the responsibility expected.

    I fully agree with Brooke in that if people would do what they are supposed to do, and take responsibility for their own little chunk of life, we would all be better off…


    Landlords vary regarding what they will and will not do. What a landlord is required to do varies as well. This is why it is so very important to read the lease agreement to a good level of understanding before one makes the deposit and signs the dotted line.

    Something very important to think about, and this has been mentioned by several folks here, is that this winter has provided us with snowfall which we’re not used to receiving. At least in recent years. (Had a lot of this when I was younger, and on the farm we simply had to deal with it.)
    When a community is faced with a challenge, how the members of said community deal together with the challenge is what defines the community.

  11. Lowell Fulk says:

    Something just occurred to me. We now have many unemployed folks. My wife ran a home health care and temp agency for a while, and there are always people looking for work. Why not, as a municipality, create a fund where excess end of cycle monies can be set aside to hire temp workers to shovel the sidewalks where there is no clearly or readily identifiable responsible entity, or when someone is elderly or disabled, or around downtown on the sidewalks and crosswalks etc… And still Enforce the residential area requirements.

  12. Eso,

    I suggest you take a serious look at that link Seth provided. it is clear that in the towns and cities whose ordinances he describes, it is “owners/occupant” or “those who own, lease, or occupy” that are responsible, not just owners. I agree with Lowell that good neighbors should take care of the elderly/disabled who are not able to pay for someone to do it.

  13. seth says:

    didn’t mean to misrepresent. i also assumed it was common sense that the city wouldn’t do it for moonpies and quarters. in the future, i will be exceedingly explicit (yikes!).

    i’ll be interested to see who gets tickets today. i’m gonna call and tattle on the hpd. how about everybody else? who are you guys telling on?

  14. seth says:

    called the hpd,
    they’re not entirely sure who you’re supposed to be calling, but apparently the majority of calls they’ve received this morning have been complaints against the elderly.

    anybody else starting to see why this is problematic?

  15. Brooke says:

    It’s not problematic, unless the police actually ticket the elderly, which my understanding is, they will not.

    But I will say anyone who called on an elderly neighbor instead of helping them dig out should be ashamed of themselves and ought to get a ticket themselves, if you ask me.

  16. Renee says:

    I don’t have a sidewalk in front of my house, so I don’t have much to add on that topic, except that Brent is right that shoveling freshly-fallen snow is much easier than shoveling condensed ice-snow days later. It’s even easier if you go out a few times during the storm so you don’t have to do it all at once afterward.

    I’ve seen people walking in the street as I drive around town, and it is really dangerous. There is a need for the sidewalks to be clear. (P.S. If you’re walking in the street at night, please wear reflective or at least brightly-colored clothes!)

    I think that the only people that have an excuse not to shovel their sidewalks are those in the areas where plows have mounded up 4+ feet of snow & ice over the sidewalk. That would be difficult to move. Also, it would be pretty jerky to give a ticket to someone that’s physically unable to move snow themselves, especially if they can’t afford to hire someone to shovel it for them.

    To you college students that are able-bodied and willing to shovel – I’m sure there’s a lot of money to be made from people that don’t want to do it themselves!

  17. chris_burke says:

    There was another government in the 1940’s that was big on forced labor….

    (that was a joke, though you are probably still offended….)

  18. blondiesez says:

    First off — I’d love to live in a part of the city that had sidewalks to begin with, instead of weaving around two-sided roadside-parked cars and ice-melt speed bumps when I walk my dogs. I’d gladly shovel/sand said sidewalk in front of our duplex as a fair trade.

    Second off — when I lived in a garden apartment, I knew that eventually the landlord would shovel our walk — but that if I wanted said stunted-legged dogs to get exercise (or for stunted-legged me to get to my car in the parking lot), it was up to me to shovel it out pronto. I didn’t get my panties in a bunch over whose ultimate responsibility is. Similarly, we now live in a duplex, and we don’t fight over who’s supposed to shovel the walk to the curb — we just do it if it needs doing.

    Third off — our offices are on South Main and as far as I can tell, we’re the ONLY building who has shoveled out a path for the sidewalk, including where Weaver Road Mountain is thanks to the snow plows. And NO, that part isn’t included in our lease, so it was up to staff and willing helpful spouses. (We ended up having to replace our cheap shovel, but we got it done.)

    Finally: I agree with Brooke. Those with elderly or infirm neighbors need to (wo)man up and shovel their sidewalks, too.

    The fact that all this energy has been expended over something that should fall under common sense — if not simple neighborly decency — makes me fear, yet again, for the continued decline of civilization.

    Stepping off soapbox now . . . .

  19. Attitudes on campus continue to exhibit some nonsense as seen in this morning’s Breeze. Now, there was a letter and a Dart poking at those complaining about having to shovel their sidewalks. But there was a front page story on the matter in which the only person defending the actions of the city was a city spokesperson. A student was interviewed who declared that it would be “absurd” if he were to come home and find a citation on his door because he has not shoveled the sidewalk in front of the house he lives in. There was also a quote from an elderly person who objected to having to hire some people to shovel “city property.” I have more sympathy for her than for the student. The spokesperson for the city noted that taxes would have to be raised if the city were to shovel off the sidewalks (without charging the residents for the activity, which as we know is what goes on in cities with lots of snow).

  20. Bubby Hussein, Hillbilly Retiree says:

    Bubby’s Snowblower Service announces the retirement of Mr. Hussein. Following up on The Winter of “09 business expansion (600%), BSS has been aquired in a stock for cash trade acquistion by Farm Bureau. The new GM, Bob Threewitts states, “This is a gutsy move for Farm Bureau, we used to just be Global Warming deniers, now we have skin in the game!.” “We expect to do very well with this divesification into snow removal.”

  21. JohnLL says:

    Ok- does anyone have addresses of people that legitimately need help?

  22. Brooke says:

    I believe I heard someone mention, in passing, the house on the corner of Ott and Paul as being owned by an elderly couple. I don’t believe the sidewalk to the side of their house has been cleared yet.

  23. Lowell Fulk says:


    If you really care to know, then knock on a door and ask…

    Knock and it shall be opened unto you,

    Ask and ye shall receive…

    If you want to help, a way to help will be shown.

    Just knock, and ask.

  24. Emmy says:

    I saw a whole lot of people out shoveling (or attempting to) today.

  25. I must say that Mason Street is much improved, if still far from ideal.

  26. Thanh says:

    Mayor Degner was just on WHSV doing a one-on-one with Bob Corso. I’m sure they’ll post the interview by tomorrow morning. They noted that the city is helping to put voluteers in touch with elderly who need help shoveling sidewalks. Folks interested in volunteering can contact Captain Gregory, Harrisonburg Police Department, at 437-2600.

  27. Tina says:

    There’ll be more people out shoveling today… yesterday a snow plow came through my neighborhood – I suppose to clear the streets so there’d be more (and safer) parking. However, they managed to move snow up against cars that had previously been shoveled out, as well as blocking driveways and yes, moving it onto the once-clear sidewalks. ??

    We had little to no plowing during and immediately after both snow storms and the streets have been a mess. I know it’s a hard job and the crews aren’t used to dealing with this much snow, but I’ve been very disappointed with what’s happened around here.

  28. mikekeane says:

    so does anyone know of tickets being handed out?

  29. Josh says:

    The Breeze published an opinion piece this morning on the matter from a JMU student:

    Shovel Your Own Snow, Harrisonburg

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