Judge Prohibits Snow-Shoveling Citations

Here’s some news that will give hope to opponents of the city’s snow removal ordinance: a judge has ruled that they lack the authority to ticket property owners for failing to shovel, The Daily Progress reports. The city can remove unshoveled snow, and then bill the property owner—which makes it a civil matter—but they can’t simply ticket citizens, says the judge. The city is already in the process of rewriting the ordinance, and police chief Timothy Longo says that he thinks it shouldn’t be a criminal matter, anyhow.

21 Responses to “Judge Prohibits Snow-Shoveling Citations”

  • Charlottesville attorney Andre Hakes said it best (in the NBC29 article): “DUI is a class one misdemeanor. Assault and battery is a class one misdemeanor. Lots of smaller offenses are class one misdemeanors. Shoveling your driveway or not shoveling your driveway is not a class one misdemeanor.”

  • I’m glad this will change, but I hope whatever the city settles on will be actively enforced in the following years. Most people don’t realize how much of a safety hazard one impassable strip of sidewalk can be for pedestrians. It forces them out onto already slippery roads.

    Another issue is the huge embankments of snow cleared from the streets deposited onto sidewalks. Some of them took a month or two to melt away.

    We heard parkers loudly complain during the storm about how the city’s generous use of their garage was not generous enough. Pedestrians, for the most part, quietly endured the inconveniences some unexpected weather placed on them. Let’s remember them too next year.

  • Well, finally, some sense from a magistrate! Although, ultimately, even a bill for cleanup is unjust IMO. When there’s a problem, you cannot simply put it on the backs of the easiest or most convenient target, which is what America does today in virtually every domain. Sidewalks are communal in every way, so why the hell does it become someone’s personal responsibility? If all you poor little sidewalk users need it so much, why aren’t you out there shoveling them? Either that, or pay more taxes to have it done by the community that actually OWNS them. The ultimate issue, however, is exactly the same nationwide for every issue: an obnoxious and aggressive lack of comprehension of how the world works, and thereby refusing anything that resembles ‘socialism’. 98% of the population has been brainwashed. Perhaps there was little to clean out from the brain in the 1st place…

  • Never forget: if the city really does have the right to clear snow off its sidewalk and charge you for it, then it has the same right to repair that stretch of sidewalk and charge you for it.

    Then there’s the street in front of your property. If they can hold you responsible for their sidewalk, they can pass an ordinance to hold you responsible for their street. Same principle.

    At least they can’t jail you for it, like they jailed Jack Manahan for failing to mow his lawn on University Circle.

  • “If all you poor little sidewalk users need it so much, why aren’t you out there shoveling them?”

    That’s unfair. Many of us do volunteer to go out and clear sidewalks in front of other people’s houses, but I don’t know why pedestrians themselves should have extra expectations heaped on them to provide this service. We do not ask “poor little” motorists to plow their own roads.

    A city that expresses a wish to be sustainable should support those who have decided to leave their cars at home (or can’t afford one, for that matter). Why would we be trying to make life harder for them?

    As far as who clears the sidewalks, different towns do this differently. Some have everyone pay taxes, and do it through public works. Others distribute the labor to individual homeowners and require each person to clear the walk in front of their own house. I really don’t care how Cville wants to do this, as long as its fair and the job gets done.

  • Quote: “I really don’t care how Cville wants to do this, as long as its fair and the job gets done.”

    TBut who is doing that? Certainly not Richard Harris who was quoted as saying “I believe we have the authority to impose criminal code”. But I bet you don’t care really about the “fair” part of your statement, but rather exclusively on the “job gets done” part.

  • ok, so Harris believed wrongly and now we know. Great.

    I’m not sure what position you’re trying to pin on me, but I don’t know how you can tell I’m being disingenuous based on a couple of paragraphs. The point I’m making is that the job is currently NOT getting done. What’s your solution for making walking in the city as safe and convenient as possible after a future snowstorm?

  • Lovely. “The job is currently NOT getting done” Well, duh!
    I’ve provided some ideas in past postings, but the bottom line is either we PAY collectively to have it done, or we come up with some creative community solutions. The bottom line is this shouldn’t be the decision of some city schmuck in an office building. Representative democracy is DEAD.

    Personally, Charlottesville is not a town that typically gets tons of snow, so I’d be a proponent of a community emergency plan solution, such as fire department, police, individuals all having a meeting and execution plan devised in advance. It’s the best solution in my view, since it puts the onus on the community, doesn’t inflate tax revenues, is only applicable those freakish years of big snow and folks know what’s what.

  • Where were those dog owners who walk their dogs and let them use my yard for their personal business when all the snow was on the sidewalks? I could have used a little help clearing the sidewalk in front of my house of all the snow and dog shit. Now that all the snow is gone when will the city come around and collect all the loose and bagged leaves which were not collected due to the snow storms this past winter?

  • How about the city doing a better job shovelling its own walks, and not putting piles of snow at intersections that blocked pedestrians even more so than unshovelled walks?
    The choices are )1-have the city clear the sidewalks itself which may mean higher taxes,or)2- have a reasonable policy whereby its the responsibility of the homeowner to clear them in a timely manner.
    Btw, the ordinance does not apply to your driveway as the first posted stated, only the city-owned sidewalks. You are free to shovel as much or little as you like on your own property.
    Jogger, you are so right about the dog messes. Did these people think that it would melt along with the snow??
    Never heard that Jack Manahan was jailed for the condition of his property. Do know he was taken to court for all the garbage piled on it. Story was that when someone expressed concern about rodents he held up a deer antler, said that it had lain on his garage floor since 1947, and showed no sign of being gnawed. Said it was a “known fact” that rats and mice chewed deer antlers, therefore he had none!

  • Because some are real thick here:

    The choices are )1-have the city clear the sidewalks itself which may mean higher taxes,or)2- have a reasonable policy whereby everyone pitches in to clear them in a timely manner, since everyone is using them.

  • Majung, if we go with option two, maybe you’d want to be the shoveling operations coordinator. You can drive around the city through the snow and make sure that our shovel brigades are all pitching in. If you see a spot that’s not completed in a timely manner, you can search around for the nearest person with a shovel to take care of it. You might want to bring a megaphone.

    Or …

    We can just say that each home is responsible for the patch in front of their house, however they choose to take care of. This might let some renters off the hook, but I don’t see what the big deal is. (Some rental agreements include snow removal anyway. I’ve personally signed on this in the past).

  • Every landowner that has a publicly accessible sidewalk on their property, has it there because of an easement. When they bought the property, they implicitly agreed to maintain it. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the landowner to maintain that sidewalk. So, the public has free access to use it. Plain and simple. That said! If the city plows the snow from the street on to your sidewalk/driveway, then the CITY needs to remove that snow. If they don’t, sue the city for putting there. They don’t have the right to do it and then turn around and fine you for it.

  • @Dn
    We can just say that you’re a lazy ass that feels entitled others take care of your needs.

    That’s total BS.

    Do you see what kind of stoopid thinking that is?

  • It was supposed to post like this:

    That’s total BS.
    “Every household with a hookup to the electricity grid has electricity because of an easement. When they bought their property, they implicitly agreed to maintain it. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the landowner to maintain the wires, the poles, the accessibility, the proper functioning, the monitoring and the continued illumination of all equipment on said easement.”
    Do you see what kind of stoopid thinking that is?

  • @Majung. Clearly you’ve never owned a home. The utility easement is an access easement to their property located on your property. A sidewalk is located in a public access easement, but it is all yours. You bought it as part of the land/home package. You are legally responsible if anyone gets hurt on it, due to your negligence. You most likely carry insurance to protect against such a thing happening. And, check out the city’s laws regarding sidewalks and curbs. You have to pay to have them fixed. The city can cite you for their disrepair, fix them if you fail to in a timely manor, and bill you for the repairs.

  • @Steve
    Clearly, you postulate w/o knowledge, as I’ve owned many homes and properties.
    Now you pose an interesting question, for which I don’t have a definitive answer: who owns the sidewalk? Well, as I’ve never received a bill from any city – and I’ve lived in different parts of the US and in 3 European countries – I was supposing it was naturally ‘public’, that is it belongs to the commune.
    But apparently, this is top secret information. Some web sites state that it depends upon the locality. So I did a search for ‘sidewalk ownership Charlottesville’. Well, why don’t you take a look yourself, Stevey.

  • If the fee is reasonable I would rather have the city come and clear my sidewalk. That way if someone slips and falls on it after it’s been cleared- well then it becomes the city’s fault.

    Where I currently live there is a sidewalk, but no street parking, so during the last several snow storms, the snow plows decided that my sidewalk was the perfect place to leave all the snow. The result was an un-walkable, un-shovelable pile of over 3 feet of snow most of the length of the sidewalk, which, because the sidewalk and buildings are also north facing, meant it was in the shade all day- making the snow also- unmeltable, until we started getting rain.

    Just for fun- the next time I buy a house I’m going to double check to make sure the survey doesn’t include the sidewalk in front of it (if there is any) and make sure I’m not being charged extra property taxes for the amount of land covered by the side walk. ;)

  • @MaJungey, Check your lot lines on your plat. You know, the one you got when you bought the property. They most likely do not stop at the sidewalk. The front lot line extends to the middle of the abutting roadway. Then read the fine print that describe what R/Ws there are. (Right of Way, i.e. EASEMENT) Also, unless you built the original sidewalk, then you won’t be getting a bill for it from the city. It was already been paid for by the builder. So, no the sidewalk is not a commune property. Man up and take responsibility for it.

  • My plat doesn’t show my property extending to the middle of the road and I live in the city. None of the city tax maps I’ve seen indicate ownership to the middle of the road either. What I have seen is that there is typically a 40′ strip dedicated to the public right of way and the sidewalks are within that. Who owns that may not be clear, the “commune” I would have to suspect, but my deed certainly doesn’t show that I do.

  • @Steveo – I live in the county, so so soooory!
    Anyways, we have sidewalks and NO, they are not part of my property. In fact, I KNOW the county owns them. But guess what, I shovel the snow there anyways. Plus I help my neighbors. PLUS, what I personally do has nothing relevant to what the norm needs to be, else you get a class 1 misdemeanor!
    The bottom line is folks need to stop this bullshiit and get a clue! Communal usage => communal upkeep. Simple, straightforward, fair, easy to grasp and remember, more flexible and ultimately, THE ONLY LOGICAL THING.
    Thank you and have a good night.

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