Champaign ordinance requires property owners to remove snow from sidewalks

Students struggle with snow that covers sidewalks in this Feb. 20 file photo. Erica Magda

Students struggle with snow that covers sidewalks in this Feb. 20 file photo. Erica Magda

By Patrick Wade

Jen Sevik, freshman in LAS, has weak ankles.

“Trudging through the snow and ice isn’t something awesome for me to do,” Sevik said.

But if a Champaign city ordinance that goes into effect Thursday works, she might not have to this winter.

The Champaign City Council approved an ordinance Oct. 16 that requires property owners in the University and downtown business districts to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks after a significant snowfall.

Previously, Champaign-Urbana was the only Big Ten community that did not have such an ordinance. Urbana does not have a policy requiring snow removal.

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“It’s safer, I guess,” Sevik said. “There’s less a chance of you falling and getting hurt.”

After a two-inch snowfall, the director of public works will put the ordinance into effect. From that point, property owners have 48 hours to clear the snow and sleet from their sidewalks.

If the ice has become impossible to remove, the property owner is expected to place abrasive material, such as sand or gravel, so that the sidewalk is “reasonably safe” to travel on.

If the property owners fail to clear their sidewalks within this time period, the city will do it at the owner’s expense.

The ordinance will not be enforced on weekends or federal holidays. Additionally, the announcement by the director of public works will only be made after the end of a snowstorm and after the city has completed its work clearing the streets in the affected area, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance originated in the Illinois Student Senate, said student senator Frank Calabrese.

“It originally came to be after the snowstorm last year,” said Calabrese, junior in LAS. “Even after school was closed for two days, no one plowed the snow.”

The student senate wrote a resolution asking the City Council to pass an ordinance requiring snow removal.

“This is how people get to class and get to work,” Calabrese said. “They walk.”

Eric McCune, junior in LAS, said he does not have a problem with ice or snow going to and from class and does not think an ordinance is necessary on campus.

“It seems a little superfluous,” McCune said.

At-Large Council member Thomas Bruno also thinks the ordinance is unnecessary and unenforceable. Bruno called it a reaction to the “freakish blizzard of Feb. 13” at the Oct. 16 meeting.

“This creates a huge burden for the average citizen,” Bruno said Wednesday. “It is burdensome to walk on a sidewalk that has snow on it, but it’s also burdensome to go out and remove that snow.”

The ordinance could present a problem for students who leave their residences on campus during breaks, Bruno said.

“I don’t know how you can get away to Chicago for the weekend without somehow prearranging contracted snow removal,” Bruno said.

He added that there are no city efforts to resolve these gray areas in the ordinance.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect snow removal ordinance,” Calabrese said. “And as long as people can walk to class in a better way than they did last year, I think people should be happy.”