What to know about Regina's new sidewalk snow-clearing bylaw

·4 min read
A man shovels the sidewalk outside a home in south Regina on Jan. 5, 2022.  (Matt Duguid/CBC - image credit)
A man shovels the sidewalk outside a home in south Regina on Jan. 5, 2022. (Matt Duguid/CBC - image credit)

The City of Regina is giving people time to warm up its new sidewalk snow-clearing bylaw.

As of Jan. 1, all property owners in the city must clear nearby sidewalks — to the edges of the sidewalk and as close to the concrete as possible — within 48 hours of a snowfall.

If you don't, the city could charge you around $300 for the clean-up.

If someone doesn't abide by the 48-hour bylaw, they can be issued a notice of non-compliance, giving them a new date to have the work done. If they still don't comply, the city will do the cleanup for an estimated cost of $300, which will be added to the owner's property tax.

But there are several steps bylaw officers are taking before it gets that far.

Andrea McNeil-Wilson is the bylaw enforcement manager for the City of Regina. She answered questions this week to clear the air on snow clearing.

When does the 48-hour window begin?

At the same time the city begins its routine snow-clearing efforts.

"When the roadway seasonal operation crews are going out to begin their systematic plow," said McNeil-Wilson.

For example, if crews head out on a Wednesday morning after snow on Tuesday, bylaw officers would begin service request inspections on Friday.

Are bylaw officers on the hunt for snowy sidewalks?

A bylaw enforcement officer is sent out to respond to service requests — essentially, complaints — made online or by phone.

"When they are at that location, we ask them to do just a 360 degree look to see if there are other properties that are in violation," McNeil-Wilson said.

"We do not have bylaw enforcement officers actively driving around the city, just looking for sidewalks with violations."

How are officers enforcing the new bylaw?

Right now, officers will first try to make contact with the property owner to inform them of the rules.

If no one's home, they'll leave an information sheet, known as a door knocker, and later conduct a follow-up.

"We're doing this to get people familiar with the regulations, but also to get a sense of that voluntary compliance rate," McNeil-Wilson said.

"Our goal at the end of the day for any case, not just for sidewalk snow removal, is to obtain voluntary compliance."

She noted officers are not going to issue notices of non-compliance, or have the city come to clean-up during the public awareness stage.

CBC
CBC

How will enforcement ramp up?

McNeil-Wilson said enforcement measures will eventually mirror what's in place for properties located within "Schedule B" of the Clean Property Bylaw.

Schedule B, primarily located within downtown, is already under a city bylaw to clear sidewalk snow within 24 hours.

Our goal at the end of the day for any case, not just for sidewalk snow removal, is to obtain voluntary compliance" - Andrea McNeil-Wilson, bylaw enforcement manager

When bylaw officers investigate and find a property owner hasn't abided by the rules, they can issue a notice of non-compliance.

"Which just informs the property owner how much time they have to work, the date that the work needs to be done by, and when we'll do that follow-up inspection," McNeil-Wilson said.

If the snow is cleared within the given timeframe, the file is closed. If not, the city will arrange to clear the snow and the property owner is charged for the service on their property tax account.

That's estimated at about $300 and is based on the time, equipment and staffing needed to clear the sidewalk.

What if someone can't physically clear the snow?

McNeil-Wilson said that in these situations, bylaw officers will present the person with options.

"It would be having that conversation with them asking if there's a neighbour who's available to them, if they have a relative who could help out," McNeil-Wilson said.

The city has also offered grant funding to six community associations to offer snow angel programs.

Volunteers sign up through the program to clear a sidewalk for someone in their area who has requested help.

McNeil-Wilson said that after this winter, the city will have a clearer idea of how many people are physically unable to do the work and have no other options available to them.

What if it's too cold to shovel?

The first week of 2022 has been a prime example of extreme cold, as low as -35 C, making snow-clearing potentially dangerous.

McNeil-Wilson said in all cases, bylaw officers will be reasonable, even when they do get to the stage of issuing notices of non-compliance.

"The officer will still be going to the door to educate the property owner. They will acknowledge that, yeah, it is really cold out there and they may need a couple of days to warm up, and that's fine," she said.

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