Watertown Town Council Rejects Snow Shoveling Requirement

A majority of the councilors said the measure would to difficult to enforce, and prefer educating people about why they should clear snow.


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.

WallSmart January 25, 2012 at 04:50 PM
The "snow show" is an annual event for the Honorable Town Council. The usual suspects raise the issue, causing more heat than light and invariably the issue is tabled. That being said, this year's non-event was the source of a couple of memorable quotes: “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,Let the Senior Center do it and have the burden – no thank you. You should find shovelers. You should find a solution.” -Pat Gold, the chairwoman of the Council on Aging “I don’t know why Watertown residents resist everything,” -Alex Liazos, former member, Town Council and the Commission on Disabilities
Mike DelRose Jr. January 25, 2012 at 05:02 PM
My family owns property throughout Watertown and on more than one occasion the town will plow snow onto sidewalks forcing them to shovel over and over again.The residents shouldn't be forced to remove the town's snow. In truth, I would have liked to see the ordinance pass like so many other communities but I can't blame some of the residents points.
John MacNeill January 25, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Great. Walking the kids to school this past week, the same people still can't be bothered to shovel. A path from their front door to their car is good enough, and to hell with the rest of us. Here's the solution to the plowed-in corners; put up some stakes.
WallSmart January 26, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Inquiring minds want to know how placing stakes will prevent Mee's Minions from piling snow several feet high at the street corners and depositing frozen slush on the sidewalks. Does one procure magic stakes from Harry Potter Inc. ?
Vinnie Dummerino January 29, 2012 at 08:19 PM
having grown up next to the home of the author of Snow Bound, I find the assumption that everyone should be out and about every day of the winter in New England like it is summer more than amusing as former New Englanders managed to stay home weeks at a time with few problems. The Council acted wisely and work on non-compulsory solutions that focus on targeted areas and aspects of the problem with yield results I believe. There is a person on my street John who doesn't say a word but just goes and shovels a part of another resident little path to the street sidewalk to make one side of the street fairly well cleared for pedestrians in the neighborhood who tend to be 20 to 40 somethings rushing to or from work and their hectic lives rather than kids and we are only 2 blocks from an elementary school. Every once in awhile I help him even though i am 70 because I feel that if those folks are working like crazy and paying local, state and federal taxes maybe them need a little quiet help from some of their neighbors. If you read John Greenleaf Whittier's poem you might be surprised as to how his snow bound problem was solved.
M C Stringfellow January 30, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Couch potatoes should be the ones out shoveling the sidewalks. Maybe they need a Doctor's note saying they are fit for the exercise involved in shoveling. As a child growing up in Watertown, the neighborhood kids went around in packs shoveling the snow off sidewalks and driveways. We never expected to be paid, although we did receive offers of hot cocoa and cookies. Instead of our children playing video games on a snow day, they need to be out getting exercise. Lets face it guys, the good old days of self- reliance are dead, gone, kaput. I now live in the South, but I want you to know I lived in Buffalo NY in 1977 and shoveled 196 inches of snow off my driveway that year. No help and still had time to help my neighbors do the same. You don't need an ordinance, just a shovel,
Ralph F Torchio March 06, 2013 at 01:16 AM
I live in the east end. I always find time to clear snow for the entire neighborhood. I have a large snowblower and I'm happyntomhelpmthe WHOLE neighborhood including our tiny parking lot. Everyone benefits and everyone appreciates it. My neighbors are great. I suggest helping when you can its a good feeling and soon enough everyone catches on,just give it a try and see what happens


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »