Champaign may require some residents to remove snow from own properties

By Patrick Wade

The Champaign City Council backed a proposed ordinance 6-3 in a study session Tuesday night that would require property owners in the University District and downtown Champaign to remove snow from their sidewalks in significant snowfall events.

Currently, only owners of apartment buildings are required to remove snow on the walks between the building and the parking lot. The council will vote to make the proposed ordinance a law in a future meeting.

The Illinois Student Senate brought its concerns of the lack of snow removal to the city council after February’s heavy snowfall, Dist. 2 Council member Michael La Due said.

“The campus was shut down and the snow was not removed for, in some instances, two days after the snowfall,” Illinois Student Senator Frank Calabrese said at the meeting.

In the form it was voted on Tuesday, the city would issue an announcement that the ordinance was in effect some time after a two-inch snowfall, and property owners would have 24 hours from that point to clear their sidewalks. If the sidewalk is not cleared, the city would clear the walk at the owner’s expense.

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The proposed ordinance was met with an array of concern from citizens, ranging from health hazards to city snow plows covering recently shoveled sidewalks.

“I think this is a knee-jerk reaction to a snowstorm that happens (once) every 14 years,” said Champaign resident Jim McGuire. He added that requiring the elderly to shovel snow in harsh weather conditions could be hazardous to their health.

“To hear this much resistance to something that benefits everyone is disheartening,” said Dist. 4 Council member Marci Dodds.

Teri Legner, acting neighborhood services director, said the city will exercise “common sense” when enforcing the ordinance, and most likely will not enforce it at all on holidays or weekends.

If the ordinance is approved in a future regular council meeting, it will go into effect this winter.

“Two inches doesn’t seem like a lot,” said Champaign resident Mark Chenail, who uses a wheelchair. “But I’ll be happy to loan you the chair next time.”