Windsor not ready to offer sidewalk snow removal

Windsor residents and businesses are responsible for clearing city-owned sidewalks abutting their property and the city has no plans to change that bylaw.

Staff claims it would cost $3 million to clear more than 900 km of sidewalks

Property owners, not the city of Windsor, are responsible for clearing sidewalks. 2:14

Windsor residents and businesses are responsible for clearing city-owned sidewalks abutting their property.

However, that could change if the city continues to pursue seniors and bill Windsor as a retirement community.

"The debate may be coming," said Coun. Fulvio Valentinis, who also chairs the city’s environment, transportation and public safety committee.

Valentinis said the city’s mind set may change as the population ages and more people, such as downtown college and university students, for example, choose to walk rather than drive around town.

As it stands right now, a city bylaw mandates that owners of commercial property shovel the city-owned sidewalk within four hours of snowfall. Residential property owners have 12 hours to clear the walk.

"The sidewalks are owned by the city but if they’re in front of your house, you’re responsible for it," Valentinis said.

People who do not shovel the sidewalk face a $125 fine or, if the city clears the sidewalk, it will bill the property owner for the work.

Bylaw enforcement is done on a complaint-driven basis.

Lee Anne Doyle, the city’s chief building officials, said the city has dealt with more than complaints during and after the Boxing Day snowfall that dumped 15 cm of snow on Windsor.

Bylaw officers will issue work orders and if property owners don't comply, the city will shovel and charge the owner.

Residents also risk a stoppage in mail delivery. Last year, in St. John's, Canada Post suspended mail delivery citing snowy sidewalks were a safety hazzard.

Valentinis also said that if a person slips, falls and sues, it would be the property owner, not the city, who would be the defendant.

The city, meanwhile, is responsible for clearing sidewalks at parks, community centres and municipal buildings.

Guelph, London and Peterborough are all Ontario cities that plow sidewalks.

Valentinis said city sidewalk plowing is "something that has really has never hit the radar."

"We don’t have the strong winter weather they have farther north, that’s one of the reasons why," he said.

Valentinis said "informal discussions" about the cost of such a service have been had.

"But because of the number snowfalls we have, it’s never been looked at in detail because it could not be justified," Valentinis said.

City engineer Mario Sonego said the city has considered offering snow removal, but declined to proceed because it is too expensive. Sonego claimed it would cost $3 million to clean city’s 900-plus km of sidewalks.

Valentinis said the city doesn’t even have a fleet of sidewalk plows. It only has enough to do the sidewalks the city is responsible for.