It may be summer, but North Cowichan wants to ensure citizens know they are responsible for removing snow and ice from sidewalks bordering their properties in the winter months.
Council instructed staff at the last council meeting to conduct an awareness campaign to remind property owners, and property occupiers, that they are required to clear the ice and snow under the Highway Use Bylaw.
The bylaw stipulates that the snow and ice must be removed within 48 hours of their accumulation on the sidewalk.
In a staff report, David Conway, the municipality’s director of engineering, said North Cowichan had received a number of complaints about property owners not removing snow from sidewalks adjacent to their properties during some snowfalls last winter.
He said the municipality regularly removes the snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to properties owned by North Cowichan.
“The municipality does not actively watch for contraventions of the bylaw, but if bylaw officers receive a complaint, they will follow-up, ensure residents are aware of the bylaw requirements, and potentially pursue compliance measures, if necessary, consistent with the bylaw’s enforcement policy,” Conway said.
Conway said staff has no data that would point to this being a wide-spread issue but, at the same time, the number of complaints has increased which may indicate that the concern is becoming problematic.
He said it’s important to realize that, occasionally, an owner or occupier will remove the snow from a sidewalk prior to the arrival of the snowplows and, under those circumstances, the snow may be pushed back onto the cleared sidewalk.
“Staff have consulted with neighbouring municipalities regarding their arrangements to regulate snow and ice removal from sidewalks,” Conway said.
“None of our neighbours actively enforce a bylaw to clear the sidewalks and their existing bylaws are comparable to North Cowichan’s.”
Conway said there is no record of the municipality ever handing out a ticket for non-compliance of the bylaw, and the bylaw has no stipulation of how much a ticket should be.
“But if people don’t clear their sidewalks as required by the bylaw, and something happens as a result, the potential for a lawsuit is very real,” he said.
The awareness campaign, which council unanimously voted for, will begin at the start of the next winter season and cost approximately $1,000, which would mostly cover newspaper advertisements throughout the winter season.
“This is the recommended option because it reinforces the importance to keep sidewalks clear, informs new residents, reminds others and is expected to reduce staff time investigating complaints,” Conway said.