Sarnians may be forced to shovel their sidewalks this winter

Buying enough sidewalk plows to clear all of Sarnia’s streets would add about $30 to the average property tax bill, the city estimates. Glenn Ogilvie file photo

Troy Shantz

Sarnia is considering fines for homeowners who don’t clear the snow from their sidewalks this winter.

City staff is seeking feedback on three new options for snow removal in response to new provincial standards, said Alister Brown, Sarnia’s manager of development and transportation. Residents have until Oct. 2 to share their opinion on the proposed changes.

One option includes fines ranging from $20 to $200 for property owners who leave their sidewalks snow-covered.

The second option would see the city buy more sidewalk plows to expand coverage. That would increase property taxes an additional one percent, or about $30 a year on an average, single detached home.

“For note purposes… when you pay one or two fines for non-compliance, that’s already more than the potential tax increase,” said Brown.

The third option is to do what the city currently does — clear half of the sidewalks when it snows and close the others. But under the new Ontario standards that would require signs and barricades for about 160 kilometres of of unmaintained sidewalks, Brown noted.

“If that sidewalk is legally closed, that’s going to promote pedestrian traffic on the roadway itself, and that’s a safety concern,” he said.

“We’d really like to come out of this with an alternative that keeps our pedestrians safe and allows us to provide that level of service.”

Concerns have been raised about seniors and people with disabilities being responsible for the shovelling themselves, he said. Discussions are ongoing with local community groups that could potentially help.

“We really want to get a good feel for what the community wants, and what the real concerns are here.”

More information and a survey are available by visiting: https://www.speakupsarnia.ca/sidewalk-snow-removal

Sarnia has 348 kilometres of sidewalks, and is required to remove snow accumulations of eight centimetres or more within 48 hours of a storm, according to the minimum maintenance standard.

With the equipment it has, the city can only meet that standard on half its sidewalks, mostly beside major roads and bus routes.

A bylaw already requires property owners in the downtown and other commercial zones to clear sidewalks adjacent to their properties.

The results of the public engagement process will be presented to city council for a possible vote on Oct. 26.