Snow Shoveling Ordinance on Public Works Committee Agenda [Poll]

The Town Council subcommittee will discuss the rules for clearing sidewalk at the request of the Commission on Disabilities.

Tuesday night, the Town Council's Public Works Committee will discuss a proposal requiring residents to shovel snow from the sidewalk in front of their homes.

The Commission on Disabilities recommended that the town create an ordinance regarding snow removal. The town has one for private property in the business districts, but nothing for residential areas.

"The Watertown Commission on Disability is recommending an additional ordinance be enacted to ensure that snow is removed and cleared away from residential sidewalks by private persons, so the disabled, elderly, children, and other citizens can safely travel throughout the city," the commission wrote in a letter to the Public Works Committee.

Town Councilor Susan Falkoff, who chairs the Public Works Committee, sent out a message saying she has changed her position on the matter after seeing a policy passed in Newton that requires shoveling, but has no penalty for failing to do so.

"In my mind, that's bad public policy. Why make it a law if it's not enforceable?" Falkoff wrote. "Instead, I would like to see more public education about why it matters to shovel your sidewalk."

Falkoff said she hopes to hear from residents at the Public Works meeting, which will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Town Hall.

Also on the agenda will be discussions on guidelines for naming squares/intersections/etc. to honor residents; and having parking meters state the hours of operation.

Jeremy November 29, 2011 at 02:46 AM
The number of Watertown home owners who don't bother to remove the snow from the sidewalks in front of their homes is embarrassingly large. I would welcome an ordinance that requires all homeowners to shovel their sidewalks or face a fine.
John MacNeill November 29, 2011 at 12:08 PM
Lots of Cunniff parents walk their kids to school even in the winter (Cunniff has no bus service). Year after year I've seen the same houses fail to shovel, or worse shovel out their driveways and dump their snow on the sidewalk. Town contractors can't seem to avoid plowing street snow onto corner-lot sidewalks. Those unfortunate homeowners couldn't shover that out even if they wanted to. An ordinance might help. And making contractors do their jobs without plowing-in the sidewalks. The Massachusetts SJC has decided that homeowners are liable for injuries, but few people are aware of that. Or we can just wait for somebody's child to get killed walking in the street.
Vinnie Dummerino December 07, 2011 at 02:45 PM
The policy being considered is excessive by a long shot and unneeded with few facts to support it about claims of injuries and safety and if it is a matter of public safety then public money should be used to clear the sidewalks and it is unfair and discriminatory to put this onus on homeowners many of whom are old and actually have no place to put the snow and would occur a large expense having it taken away. No matter what the disabilities people say, the bylaw would be onerous and a large burden for many homeowners, particularly since some sidewalks are rarely used if at all by such people. Only one side of a street needs to be cleared and on school routes and places similar at most. The proposed bylaw is Draconian. If the council wants to support it, They should appropriate the funds to get it done for several reasons some of which are actually legal, particularly as the bylaw does not define what snow is;namely, what amount of snow must there be to be enough that it actually needs to be removed. Any fines will be easily challenged and contested because of these various point and the town will incur large costs on addressing these challenges.
John MacNeill December 07, 2011 at 03:03 PM
>>public safety then public money should be used to clear the sidewalks... No. The "onus" is already on you sir. You're responsible for clearing your own sidewalk, not the "town."
Edie B. December 07, 2011 at 05:20 PM
I agree with both John and Vinnie. While I think all sidewalks should be cleared for pedestrians, who is actually owns the sidewalk -- the homeowner or the town? It seems to me it's town property (for example, the sidewalk in front of my house is public property, but my walkway/driveway/yard are my own private property). I do know that some communities in other parts of the country maintain the sidewalks, not the homeowners.
Vinnie Dummerino December 07, 2011 at 07:01 PM
exactly Eddie and once again John misrepresents things. Activist judges aside (and we all know what needs to be done in this state relative to such judges), the legal onus is on the homeowner for real and big time if they clear their sidewalks and someone falls on them as the case law around defective workmanship, which is exactly what the homeowner would be guilty, of is higher than Mount Washington and very well well established and the owner would lose hands down as would a tenant who shovel the walk. If you do not shovel your or the city's walks you ARE NOT AS LIBEL and will beat the suit most likely as an expert attorney will tell you. THERE IS NO CASE LAW for the MSC legal ruling John and others are so fond of citing and the currently ruling will most likely not survive a real test and a home owner or her or his insurance company can litigate against the town if the bylaw is passed (compulsory work performance and negligence in supervising it execution). What the town and these groups are trying to do by slight of hand is to turn over the legal liabilities to the homeowner (and this includes the ADA problem tool) as well as the cost in a typical MA "bag the sitting duck" approach and this is what every homeowner needs to understand. People's homeowner insurance cost will increase and such accidents may not be covered as the public sidewalk is not the homeowner's property. This is just one reason why a reasonable, focused and limited plan is needed.


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