Proposed snow removal ordinance moves forward

There’s no better way to beat the sweltering heat this summer than discussing a proposed snow and ice removal ordinance with the Oxford Village Council.

Council will conduct a first reading of the proposed ordinance amendment at its 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 10 meeting.

Officials will conduct a public hearing and second reading at the 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 24 meeting.

Both meetings will take place at the village hall located at 22 W. Burdick St.

Folks would face drastically stiffer penalties for not clearing their sidewalks in a timely manner during the winter months under this proposed ordinance. Fines would range from $150 to $500 “for each infraction.”

Enacted in 1977, the current ordinance imposes a fine of $15 for violations.

Officials are hoping higher fines will compel folks who own and/or occupy residential and commercial properties to keep adjoining village sidewalks clear and safe for pedestrians.

Under the proposed ordinance, whenever snow or ice ceases to “fall or accumulate during daylight hours,” it must be “removed from the sidewalks within 12 hours after the cessation.”

If the snow or ice ceases to “fall or accumulate during the nighttime,” it must be “removed from the sidewalks by 7 p.m. the following day.”

Oxford’s current ordinance states whenever snow falls or ice forms on the sidewalk, it must be removed “within 24 hours.”

Individuals who violate the proposed ordinance would face civil fines of “not less than $150 or more than $500, plus costs and other sanctions, for each infraction” and “each day that a violation continues shall be deemed an additional and distinct violation.”

Repeat offenders would take a big hit in the wallet under the proposed ordinance.

It states, “For a second offense in any three-month time period, the civil fine shall automatically be set at $200. For any additional offenses in any three-month time period, the civil fine shall automatically be set at $500.”

“We softened the second violation from $300 down to $200,” noted village attorney Bob Davis as he explained to council the changes that had been made since the language was initially presented at the June 12 meeting.

The proposed ordinance would also empower the village manager to have the snow or ice removed from a violator’s sidewalk and charge the owner or occupant for the work, “plus 15 percent for inspection and related costs.”

Conceivably, a violator could end up receiving a civil fine and be obligated to pay the village to have his or her sidewalks cleared.

Under the proposed ordinance, the moving of snow or ice “into a roadway” or “within 3 feet of any fire hydrant” would be prohibited.

Councilman Joe Frost favored the language concerning fire hydrants and inquired about a potential addition to it.

“Should we also require property owners adjacent to fire hydrants to clear around those hydrants to (create) access for our firefighters?” he asked.

“I’ve had to open a hydrant (while) standing in 2 feet of snow and it’s not a pleasant experience,” Frost noted.

“I could take a shot at (adding) that,” Davis replied.

Councilman Erik Dolan, however, didn’t feel such an addition was necessary because in other communities, public works and fire personnel “police . . . their own fire hydrants to ensure that they’re accessible.”

He expressed concern that council was trying to add language to cover “every conceivable situation” and that’s not possible.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to find (an ordinance) that’s palatable to everyone,” Dolan said.

Davis told council he felt the language presented that evening represents “a clear and concise, enforceable, workable ordinance.”

“I feel that the recommendation of the legal (counsel) of this village is above the legal knowledge of any of its council members and therefore, should be accepted,” said Dolan, who then made a motion to schedule the first reading.

In response to Dolan’s comments, Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth said, “I think our legal representative is wonderful, but I don’t think he’s infallible.”

“And I don’t just accept his word, which is why we read it and we debate it because that’s our job,” she continued. “Otherwise, we could just have Bob as king.”

“I think we’re belaboring this topic and I do have confidence in the legal (counsel) as opposed to the great . . . legal minds that sit at this council, so my motion stands,” Dolan retorted.

The proposed ordinance also prohibits moving and depositing snow “onto the shoulder of any roadway or any alley in a manner which obstructs the safety vision of the driver of a motor vehicle.”

“Safety vision” is defined in the proposed ordinance language as the “unobstructed line of sight which enables a driver of a motor vehicle to travel on, enter on or exit a roadway in a safe manner.”

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