SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A new snow ordinance in South Kingstown will require property owners to clear the sidewalks near their house within 12 hours after a snowstorm.
“The snow ordinance applies to all property owners and all sidewalks in town,” Town Manager Robert Zarnetske said in an interview Monday. “The ordinance imposes a fine on those who don’t remove snow from the location near their property.”
In the ordinance, Zarnetske said, a map details sidewalks that are determined to be of critical importance to be cleared. Those include sidewalks that provide access to schools or critical services like the Main St. area. “Those sidewalks, the town will remove the snow or ice from after the property owners have a chance to do it themselves. If they don’t do it, we’ll go and clear them.”
If a “priority sidewalk” is not cleared in time, the owner will incur not only a fine but also the cost of the removal by the town.
The penalty for not removing snow is a warning for a first offense, then a $100 fine for a second offense and $175 for a third offense.
Zarnetske said that the ordinance isn’t intended to “bust people’s chops” or really inconvenience people. “We want to make sure that we have the sidewalks cleared so the kids aren’t walking through it, so that people visiting downtown businesses aren’t forced to walk in the road and are injured trying to get to the business district in Wakefield,” he said of the ordinance. “But we need to move towards having people remove snow from the sidewalks adjacent to their properties.”
This year, Zarnetske said, the town will try to remind people of their obligation and encourage them to remove it, rather than immediately attempting to impose fines.
Another aspect of the ordinance prevents the dumping of snow on a public sidewalk; that activity will incur a $500 fine. Businesses have pushed snow banks onto sidewalks in the past; that has created a long-term issue before, Zarnetske said.
The ordinance also changes property owner’s legal obligations. Zarnetske said people may be potentially exposed to civil lawsuits from those who are injured as a result of snow or ice not being removed. “This is not just the town levying the fine, it’s the responsibility that we each have to our neighbors,” he said. ”If we have the benefit of a sidewalk passing through our property, we have an obligation to ensure that our neighbors and business patrons and folks walking in the sidewalk are safe. That’s a responsibility not just here but in the country typically falls on property owners.”
There are also three waivers for certain people. Those who are 62 years or older are automatically exempt if they can prove the owner is of that age and those with a physical disability also have an automatic waiver. Those who are out of town for a work requirement and made it impossible to remove the snow from their sidewalk also may apply on a case-by-case basis, Zarnetske said.
Waivers can be applied by writing an email to the Manager’s office, where applicants will be asked to demonstrate their property ownership and eligibility through documentation. Only people can get the waivers, not companies, Zarnetske said.
For more information on the ordinance including a map of priority sidewalks, visit southkingstownri.com.