Watertown residents will not be required to shovel snow off their sidewalks after the Town Council voted 7-2 against proceeding with the creation of a residential snow shoveling ordinance Tuesday night.
Town Council Vice President Steve Corbett brought the proposal forward on behalf of the Watertown Commission on Disabilities. The Commission requested the ordinance requiring all residents be required to clear snow from sidewalks to allow people with disabilities to travel safely on town sidewalks during the winter.
Corbett mentioned that others would benefit, including children walking to school, parents pushing strollers and commuters walking to bus stops. At last count, 22 communities around Boston have passed residential snow shoveling requirements.
While they agreed with the goal of having all sidewalks shoveled, most of Corbett’s colleagues disagreed with having a shoveling requirement. Most preferred to increase efforts to educate Watertown residents about the importance of shoveling walks.
Councilor Angeline Kounelis said it is difficult to keep a sidewalk cleared, even after the storm, because street snowplows may push snow back on the sidewalk.
The difficulty of enforcing the requirement was also cited as a problem. Councilor Susan Falkoff used to support the ordinance, but said after seeing the one passed by Newton she changed her mind.
“It’s difficult to enforce and it pus an unreasonable burden on residents,” Falkoff said.
Residents Weigh In
Fayette Street resident Russ Arico opposed any ordinance forcing residents to shovel their walks. He said he thinks people should do so, and should lend a hand to others.
“It is better to leave snow shoveling as a neighborly thing to do,” Arico said.
Pat Gold, the chairwoman of the Council on Aging, said she is concerned about seniors who cannot shovel their own walk. There had been talk of having students from Watertown High School to volunteer to do it for seniors, but Gold told the Town Council they needed to find a solution.
“A person came to the Senior Center and told us it was our responsibility to approach the School Department to find people to shovel snow for seniors,” Gold said. “Let the Senior Center do it and have the burden – no thank you. You should find shovelers. You should find a solution.”
Alex Liazos, a former member of both the Town Council and the Commission on Disabilities, said many sidewalks are not cleared, and the council should do something to improve the situation.
“I don’t know why Watertown residents resist everything,” Liazos said. “It is not a perfect solution, but it is better than doing nothing.”
Current Snow Ordinances
Watertown has three snow ordinances right now, Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said, and none are strictly enforced.
- One requires all driveways – residential and commercial – to be cleared of snow.
- The second requires a 36-inch path through the piles of snow that build up on the sides of driveways after they are plowed.
- The third requires snow be cleared from sidewalks in front of private businesses in Watertown’s business districts.
Piccirilli said he did not want to pass another one if the current ones are not enforced.
Councilor Ken Woodland said he thought it was important to set priorities and expectations for the town by passing a snow ordinance, even if it is difficult to enforce. Safety was his main concern, Woodland said, even if the town did not have the money to enforce “truly enforce” the ordinance.
Woodland and Corbett supported the ordinance, with the other seven councilors voting against it.