Shovel that snow, itís the law

Written by Pat Caldwell, Observer correspondent January 11, 2013 10:38 am

Brad Trisler dutifully clears snow this morning on Adams Avenue. Most local cities carry a basic maintenance and care ordinance on the books for sidewalks situated in front of businesses. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer
Brad Trisler dutifully clears snow this morning on Adams Avenue. Most local cities carry a basic maintenance and care ordinance on the books for sidewalks situated in front of businesses. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer

At first glance a city ordinance regulating business sidewalks may seem like an obscure, vaguely interesting town news note.

That is, until it snows.

And snows a lot. 

When Mother Nature decides to deliver a large amount of the wet stuff, as it did this week in the Grande Ronde Valley, suddenly a little-known city regulation may mean a great deal to area residents. Especially if snow blocks entry to a business.

A quick review of area cities shows most area municipalities carry at least some type of ordinance regulating the maintenance and care of business front sidewalks, though few specifically target snow removal as a key component to the regulation.

“We do have one and it is enforced on a complaint basis,” La Grande City Recorder Sandy Lund said.

Lund said if a complaint is logged, the city will act.

“If we got a complaint from the downtown core area, we could certainly contact that business owner,” she said.

However, it is a rare occasion when an actual citation will be issued to a business owner because he or she did not keep the sidewalk in front of a business clear, La Grande City Planner Michael Boquist said. 

Boquist said that is because the police department and the La Grande Public Works Department prefer to chat with a particular business owner in a “knock and talk” scenario to discuss and, ultimately, solve any conflict regarding snow removal.

In a rare and worst-case scenario, Boquist said, a business owner could be issued a citation with a $100 fine. 

Most area cities carry a basic maintenance and care ordinance on the books for sidewalks situated in front of business.

A North Powder ordinance, for example, compels business owners to maintain the sidewalk in front of their business in     “... good repair and in a safe condition.”

In North Powder, as in many other small towns across the area, the business area is a small one and therefore snow removal issues rarely arise, according to City Recorder Beth Wendt. 

Second Street, Wendt said, is a case in point.

“The people along there are good about keeping it clean because they get a lot of foot traffic,” she said.

Cove does not have a specific ordinance focusing on snow removal in front of businesses. However, Cove City Recorder Donna Lewis said city elected leadership is working on a decree to address the issue in the future.

In Union, business owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks — including, presumably, snow removal — in front of their shops but the city rarely faces an issue of non-compliance, city administrator Sandra Patterson said.

“It would come to a fine but we have never had to take it to that step,” she said.