To clear or not to clear? That is the question bylaw doesn’t answer, councillor complains
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A city committee will take another look at rules that may leave residents at risk of fines when they voluntarily clear snow from sidewalks.
On Tuesday, council’s executive policy committee voted to refer the matter back to the public works committee.
The decision came after Coun. Matt Allard told the committee imprecise wording leaves the threat of fines in place, whether or not tickets have been handed out.
“I don’t see why we wouldn’t clean up this bylaw, it’s a very simple fix and I think we shouldn’t be sending a message to residents that it’s a fineable offence to be a good citizen and take a snowblower and clear the sidewalk of the street that you reside on,” Allard told the committee.
In an interview, Allard said he reads the bylaw as stating that residents could be fined $25 for the offence. He believes previous comments from city officials that such penalties were possible were accurate.
Earlier this month, the public works committee voted to take no action on a motion Allard had raised to study potential bylaw changes aimed at ruling out the risk. City staff told the committee the bylaw doesn’t prohibit Winnipeggers from clearing public sidewalks. During the same meeting, public works chairwoman Janice Lukes noted she was assured fines would not be levied.
The matter was cast into the spotlight over the past two months, after winter conditions set in. Some groups complained bike lanes and sidewalks had been poorly cleared and began organizing their own do-it-yourself snow-clearing efforts.
At one point, the city warned it could fine residents who took part in those efforts, though a spokesman later said officials have no intention of issuing financial penalties.
However, Allard said a bylaw change must still be completed to ensure the conflicting interpretations aren’t possible in the future.
“There may not have been fines issued, but there is still that problematic position from the City of Winnipeg that it’s a fineable offence,” he said.
EPC ultimately voted to send the matter back to the public works committee to determine how best to clarify the bylaw.
“If there are sections within the bylaw that talk about fining individuals who want to clear their own sidewalk, I don’t think that passes the common-sense test. I think that the bylaw should be updated and any old and irrelevant language be removed from it,” Mayor Scott Gillingham told reporters following the meeting.
The public works committee is expected to revisit the matter in February, unless council overrules that decision.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.