I've been trying to get a residential snow shoveling ordinance passed since January of 2003. Here's the text of my letter to the editor published last week in the Watertown Tab.
My wife and I moved to Watertown because we could walk to just about everything (including the East Branch Library, but that's another issue). For five years that has not been the case for much of the year because of neighbors who refuse to shovel their walks.
When the residential snow shoveling ordinance was proposed over a year ago, councilors Marilyn Petitto Devaney and Frederick Pugliese on the ordinance subcommittee refused to even consider it. Devaney said she wouldn't pass ordinances that couldn't be enforced and Pugliese thought it would infringe on residents' right not to shovel. Fortunately the Town Council president referred it back to the subcommittee with the instructions that the committee members should consider how neighboring towns have handled this problem.
With the change in subcommittee membership the proposed ordinance has now made it to a vote. The most recent objections concern the piles that snowplows push onto corners. It seems only common sense that our police officers will use their discretion and not cite people for refusing to shovel through a huge embankment, but I suppose even common sense needs to be codified.
To respond to Ms. Vincuilla “Shoveling sidewalks should be town's responsibility” (June 4), I don't believe the town budget can handle a snow shoveling crew and would prefer not to see taxes increased to cover that. The ordinance does include exemptions for “elderly and handicapped persons who are unable to effect the removal of snow and ice due to their own physical condition and insufficient financial resources.” If she doesn't meet those criteria perhaps she can find a local student (I saw a sign for “Helping Hands 617-926-2725” on the bulletin board at the Police Station).
This ordinance should encourage able-bodied residents (and country clubs in residential districts) who have no problem clearing their driveways and a path from their door to their car, to act with consideration for their neighbors or risk a penalty. It will make the town safer for everyone who walks. I sincerely hope it passes.
Talked to Sgt. Hamilton of the Belmont Police today. He has worked through the considerable red tape to get permission from Watertown for Belmont to put up a sign on Watertown property. It should be there soon.
Haven't received a return Call from Sgt. Hamilton of the Belmont Police in two weeks so I tried calling him again today. He's been out for training this week. Lt. Lane took a message and told me Sgt. Hamilton would call on Monday.
Everyday, people park their cars on Belmont Street in front of the Oakley Country Club and catch the #73 bus into Harvard Square. Often someone parks right up to the corner of Commonwealth Road and Belmont Street. If you are making the turn from Commonwealth Road onto Belmont Street, those cars parked at the corner block your view and you have to inch out until you are directly in the way of cars speeding down the hill from Cushing Square.
So I decided to ask the Belmont police (because Belmont Street is in Belmont) if they would enforce the ordinance that prohibits parking within a certain distance of the curb.
Sgt. Hamilton of the Belmont Police told me that for them to enforce it there needs to be a sign that says “No Parking from here to corner.” But the sidewalk is in Watertown and so Sgt. Hamilton told me I had to go to the Watertown Police to get a sign put up.
Officer Morley of The Watertown Police Traffic Division said the Watertown Department of Public Works is responsible for putting up parking signs and sent me to them.
The Watertown DPW said they need authorization from the Watertown Traffic Commission before they can put up a sign. So they sent me to the Traffic Commission which is headed by Sgt. Pugliese of The Watertown Police Traffic Division.
So I called the Watertown Police again and spoke to Officer Morley again who checked with Sgt. Pugliese who said that because Belmont Street is in Belmont, the Watertown Traffic Commission has no jurisdiction over it. He said the request to the Watertown DPW must come from Belmont. And he sent me back to Sgt. Hamilton of the Belmont Police.
January 14, 2003
Watertown Town Manager and Town Council
149 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
To the Town Manager and Town Council:
Watertown has an ordinance requiring snow and ice removal from sidewalks in front of businesses in business districts but the ordinance does not extend to residential districts. It's just considered a neighborly thing for residents to do and it's assumed they will do it.
My wife and I have lived in our home in Watertown for four years now and have reached the limit of our tolerance for our neighbors who refuse to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice. We chose to live here because we could walk to stores, restaurants, the bus, and other services. But in winter, particularly this year, those walks become treacherous, especially for my wife who is pregnant and for our two-year-old, whether walking or in the stroller. I have tried contacting certain neighbors personally (including the Oakley Country Club). At best I have been able to get them to clear their walks after a couple of calls but the next time it snows they do not clear again. Each time I want to take my daughter to the library, I should not have to plan ahead by calling a dozen residents of School Street. Each time I need to take the bus I should not have to call the Country Club or three homeowners on Belmont Street.
It is time for the town to extend the ordinance to residences. The City of Cambridge ordinance could serve as a model. Cambridge provides an exemption for disabled and elderly residents. I have attached the summary of the Cambridge ordinance taken from their web site.
I look forward to your action on this issue.
Cambridge Sidewalk Snow & Ice Removal Ordinance
The City's Sidewalk Snow & Ice Removal Ordinance requires Cambridge property owners to remove snow from all sidewalks next to their property or business within 12 hours after snow stops falling in the daytime, and before 1 p.m. when the snow has fallen during the night. Property owners must also clear ice off sidewalks or treat them with an ice-melting substance within 6 hours of the time the ice forms. Please make sure catch basins are clear of snow and debris so they can work properly and control flooding.
If your home or business is on a corner, please shovel an opening from the sidewalk to the street. If your business is next to a crosswalk, please shovel an opening wide enough to enable persons with strollers or in a wheelchair to get onto the sidewalks safely! Also, don’t forget to shovel the side-street sidewalk as well as the sidewalk in front of your business.
Make openings in snow banks between the streets and sidewalks at crosswalks, street corners and bus stops.
Sidewalk Hotline: 617-349-4903, TTY 617-349-4805
Help keep the City's 225 miles of sidewalk safe by reporting unshovelled or icy sidewalks to the Snow Hotline. Please leave an accurate address.
Snow Exemption Program: 617-349-6220 or TTY 617-349-6050.
Homeowners with a low income who are disabled or elderly may qualify for the City's Snow Exemption Program. For more information, call the Council on Aging (COA) at above number.