City Council discussed their snow clearing policy on October 11th at their Committee of the Whole Meeting. Here, they discussed altering a bylaw which would allow residents to put the snow on the side of the road. This discussion would serve as a primer to Council’s meeting on November 21st where snow removal was discussed further.
Council was also given a list of reasons why putting snow on the curb side was a bad idea by their administration. The list is attached below or you can read it here
In addition, a former Councillor, Graham Anderson, wished to talk about this with the Council. He was called upon for his surprise presentation near the beginning of the meeting.
“How this got started was my son piled a whole bunch of snow in front of my house and a big blob which drew the attention of the building inspector and quite rightly, he gave me a warning ticket. The ticket has nothing to do with it, I’m in agreement on it,” said Anderson.
He explained he then received a letter from Peter Brock, the building inspector asking him not to put any snow on the road. There were two follow-up letters. At this point, he contacted the Council members.
Anderson handed out minutes from a regular meeting of Council in 2001. At the meeting, there was a unanimously passed motion which would amend a bylaw regarding public spaces. He explained this bylaw did not permit homeowners to anything into the road with the exception of ice and snow.
He added his home was built in such a manner, it would not facilitate the on site storage of snow. He asked Council where people are supposed to put the snow in the case there is a heavy snowfall and the District Machines have blown all the snow from the road onto the front lawn. Anderson pointed out some properties in town do not have the room to keep piling up snow.
Councillor Corrine Scott inquired about the Bylaw, as a part was cut off by the photocopier. Anderson explained it says the sole discretion will go to the director of Engineering or his delegates.
Tim Gleig, District Engineer said he was not at the final adoption but he was at the other reading. He explained the Boulevard was not the travel portion of the road, but the boulevard. The boulevard is a section of land off the curb. He pointed out it is administration’s discretion, not Councils. The discretion is for problems being created, such as when a storm sewer would be blocked or visibility would be reduced.
The only time this came up was when a store owner in Service Centre pushed snow into the boulevard creating a visibility problem.
Gleig also explained there is an MTI format of ticketing, which leaves the person being ticketed to prove their innocence. In the case of snow clearing, it refers to snow which obstructs traffic. He asked: “At what point does it impede or obstruct traffic when you put snow in the road way.”
He added Council was looking at a motion later in the evening to look at this, but this motion does not look at how deep the snow will be, how high it can be and other aspects. It would be a difficult one to enforce as there are properties which cannot hold a lot of snow.
“I don’t think we’re unreasonable, this was a motion among many considered for cutting costs with the closure of Eurocan. I will state there are some real abuses here, and in the middle of that big snowstorm where we got a metre of snow in 24 hours, driving down albatross, there was a quad with a blade parked in his garage just pushing all the snow right across into the curb on the other side and compacting it. Now I don’t think that was the intent. If you have the equipment, you can do something different with it,” said Gleig.
He said there are other alternative, such as hiring kids to clean the snow, he pointed to an example where the snow was pushed against the curb, but was also ten feet out from the curb. He reminded Council the bylaw was not to put snow into the road but into the boulevard which is between the curb and the property line.
“What you can’t ignore is the fact that snow put in the road way; cars get stuck in it. Even if it is on curb side, it affects drainage. We don’t return after snow clearing and you’ve probably seen it yourself and we’ve got lots of pictures of people who, after the storm is over, push their drive way after we’ve been there and piled it on the road or on the curb. It now becomes cold, it becomes frozen in place there and Grater operators have no hope of seeing that in the middle of a snow storm,” said Gleig. “There are a number of operational reasons why we’re not in favour of that.”
He reminded of one incident where a home owner piled all the snow in the gutter. When the rain came, all the water went down into a basement, Council paid for the repairs.
Anderson said they had to come to a solution over what blocks traffic. He suggested residents in Kitimat could not hire someone with a loader to move the snow which was put there by the District of Kitimat and they may no longer be in a position to get snow up and onto the bank.
He said not being to put snow on the road was preposterous. He there was no such case of having graders stuck in snow banks pushed out from a driveway when he was on Council. During this time, people were still putting snow on the roads. A little extra snow and ice will not stop the graders.
Later in the meeting, Councillor Corrine Scott made a motion for the Administration to prepare an amendment to the bylaw regarding the snow removal. Councillor Mario Feldhoff pointed out this was a tabled motion on the floor. The motion was originally to allow people who clean their driveways to leave the snow on the curb. Scott made a motion to amend this motion with the distance from the curb, within in the first four feet of the curb space.
Councillor Bob Corless was opposed: “Already, we’ve turned everybody into criminals, my neighbours, very nice people, very smart people, very fxxxxd up people. Still in snow things, scooping their snow across the street and blocked the drains. Water runs down, farther down the street. Probably someone gets water in their thing. People are already doing it. My question would be, how many people get tickets every year. I don’t think for all the infractions there are, I don’t believe many people actually receive a ticket. I just think we’re blowing smoke here, just talking about wasting time,” said Corless. “It doesn’t matter what you put in the bylaws, they will break it and it’s not that they are doing it on purpose, it’s just more convenient for them. We all get sick of snow.”
Scott changed her amendment. Not only must the snow be put in the curb space, it also had to be placed in front of the dwelling. She also added the snow cannot disrupt traffic or the storm drain. The person placing the snow over the drain is responsible for any damage caused by the water.
Councillor Randy Halyk stated he was not certain about this amendment, as it would take 8 feet out of the roadway. He wanted to know how wide the streets were as he was concerned about them being narrow. He suggested the best way to solve this would be to have a snow blower blow the snow into a truck and cart it away so they do not have the issue.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked for clarification on the 2001 bylaw and the requests for staff to be more aggressive on this issue in response to the Eurocan closure. He also asked for information on the information sheet in the package. According to it, 15 warnings and two tickets were handed out. 27 people received letters in regard to the snow clearing.
Halyk asked if 4 feet were allowed on either side of the street, would it be enough room for two vehicles to get by. Gleig replied in some cases, such as when there are cars parked on the side of the road, where this would create a challenge for people to get through. He thought a foot and a half would be adequate, although it would still clog the gutter. He said this change would mean a lot more people doing putting their snow in the gutter and right now, there are not that many people doing it.
Councillor Rob Goffinet agreed that four feet was too wide. He suggested people with a machine which could scoop snow across the street should have a blower put on it instead so they could shoot it up to the top of the pile. He also suggested the district help people in the community who cannot lift the snow three metres onto the pile. Goffinet said 99% of the people are law abiding and would not put it out in the street. The people who are putting it in the middle of the street should be issued a ticket.
Scott said the snow blowers blow the snow into people’s yards and some people cannot remove the snow from the parking. She said there should be no problem with parking since snow is supposed to be off the street for snow removal. She said she had a problem with residents could hire snow removal equipment but people with low income or disabilities cannot afford to hire someone to clean their driveway. They are shovelling by hand and are the ones who have the problems.
“I fully endorse the bylaw people of going out and giving tickets to people who blatantly take a quad with a blade and push the snow from the property into the middle of the road. I agree they should be fined for that,” said Scott.
The amendment was carried.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff was torn. He said the bylaw would put the power in the hands of their staff. He thought they were good about how they use the power but he was concerned about the language punishing the elderly and people with low incomes.
Corless did not think they needed to change anything. He watches his own street. The most problem came from when the snow clearing made a windrow and his neighbours pushed the snow into the windrow. Then vehicles had a hard time navigating the street. The grader also had problems going uphill on the street when there was snow against the curb.
Halyk wanted to make an amendment to the motion, to change the response time back from five inches to three inches. However, Feldhoff wanted to see this as a new motion. It was accepted as a notice of Motion.
Goffinet clarified they did not have to move this motion as it was coming back as a bylaw and they were going to do it anyway. He said he did not fault the bylaw enforcement officer as Council told them to be strict as a cost saving measure.
Corless pointed out 4’ was a big deal. People could end up blocking their neighbour’s driveway. Wordsmithing was needed for the bylaw.
Goffinet pointed out the snow had to be in front of their properties, not anyone else’s. It could not be across the street or down in front of a neighbours house. People who could not adhere to the rules could find someone to shoot it up onto the pile. He said most people could push a scoop up onto the front lawn. Mayor Joanne Monaghan joked about her driveway being the exception to the rule.
Halyk said the snowplough could eliminate the 4’. However, there could come a time when the plough could not move it and then the community will have tunnel issues. He did not think this was the solution to the problem.
Scott said it was Council’s role to set the guidelines for staff. If 4’ is too wide, make it 2’ so long as they are granting the ability to put it on the side of their property. She said the bylaw does not allow snow on the road, but Council needs to allow for it. The motion was for the people who shovel snow.
The amended motion was called and carried. Now it is up to administration to bring back a by-law for Council to approve.