Minneapolis considers $75 fine for failing to clear sidewalks

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2011 - 7:56 AM

Citations, to be reserved for repeat offenders, are intended to help maintain pedestrian safety.

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Residential sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall’s end.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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Snow-shoveling scofflaws could be on the hot seat this winter in Minneapolis.

Not only does the city plan to get out more quickly to see whether a property owner has complied with an order to shovel, but it's likely to hit repeat violators with a $75 fine.

By city ordinance, walks at single-family and duplex homes must be cleared of ice and snow within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall. For apartments and businesses, the deadline is four daytime hours after snow ends.

Unshoveled walks draw complaints from the disabled and other pedestrians, and were identified as a pressing problem in the city's pedestrian plan. Yet in recent years, more sidewalks are becoming icy obstacle courses as banks repossess homes and their former owners depart. Last winter's bountiful snow meant more for property owners to shovel, and more backlogs for city crews that clear the walks.

Typically, the city acts on complaints. If a walk is unshoveled, an order will be issued. If the order is ignored, a city crew will remove the snow and bill the property owner. City inspectors hope to cut the time before they get out to reinspect those sidewalks from a week to four days, Department of Public Works liaison Brett Hjelle told a City Council committee on Tuesday.

The city encourages people to call 311 to report unshoveled walks this winter, and also to enlist its housing inspectors to report them.

The city is assessing more than $52,000 in unpaid charges from last winter on next year's property tax bills. But last winter, city crews often were busy with other snow-clearing duties and were delayed in getting to delinquent properties, Hjelle said. So the city will experiment this winter in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood with hiring private crews to clear walks more quickly.

While the city can issue a $103 citation under Hennepin County rules, public works proposed a scaled-down $75 citation.

But Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said use of the proposed citation ought to be limited to chronic offenders. Otherwise, between the bill for clearing snow and the citation, the city would be piling on, she said.

So the panel forwarded the citation proposal to the full council for approval, but wants the department to show how it will limit its use to those with frequent shoveling lapses. It also wants a plan for rapid removal of snow from the sidewalks of vacant and boarded buildings.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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