Sept. 9 2010 12:00 AM

The snow and ice removal ordinance is voted out of committee after roughly 2 years; City Council votes Thursday for a public hearing

This story was corrected Sept. 9.

It took about
three hours in the 10th floor City Hall Council Chambers, but lo and
behold, a proposed snow and ice removal ordinance will likely get a
public hearing this month. The ordinance would allow the city to clear
public sidewalks and add the cost to a property owner’s taxes if it
isn’t paid within 30 days.

The Public Services
Committee met today to amend the snow ordinance and voted 2-0 to have
City Council set a public hearing on it (First Ward City Councilman and
committee chair Eric Hewitt did not vote).

The Council will vote Thursday afternoon on scheduling a Sept. 20 public hearing on the ordinance.

City Attorney’s Office will rewrite the draft ordinance after inserting
changes approved today. It is the ordinance’s eighth version. The new
draft will look a lot like draft five, which was originally approved in
March 2009.

The Public Service Department will have to both post
and mail a notice requiring a property owner to clean sidewalks.
Instead of being deemed received 24 hours after being sent out, the
mail will be deemed received two delivery days after being sent out.
Property owners will then have 24 hours to remove the snow or ice.

Public Service Department will also have the authority to make its own
set of enforcement rules, like limiting allowable snow depth and
notification times. The “sunset clause” is still part of the
ordinance, meaning the ordinance will be up for review, but in two
years instead of one.

Under the ordinance, property owners will
have 24 hours to clear snow from public sidewalks after it falls before
the new provisions could kick in.

Public Service Director Chad
Gamble said upfront costs for the city to remove the snow would be
about $116, which covers an administrative fee and 20 minutes of the
city’s time. Property owners would be charged $45.29 for each 20
minutes after that.

Gamble said following today’s meeting that
he’s just happy the ordinance is out of Committee. “Public Service is
ready to enforce this. Hopefully it gets snow legs,” Gamble said,
meaning he hopes the Council approves it before winter.

If a
public hearing is set at Thursday’s City Council meeting, it then goes
back to the City Council to “amend, pass or kill,” City Attorney Brig
Smith said, once the public’s comments are considered.

Hewitt had
last proposed giving property owners more time before the city could
clear their sidewalks. But the committee opted to bypass those and
consider earlier draft for mark-up purposes.

whatever work Hewitt has done amending the ordinance on his own time
“will be nixed,” At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries said.