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Snow-shovelling scofflaws beware: City of Vancouver to review snow and ice removal enforcement

The City of Vancouver is reviewing how it enforces snow and ice removal on city streets in order to drive the message home to residents during winter. Kristen Robinson reports.

Vancouver’s snow shovelling scofflaws currently get two warning notices before being ticketed for the bylaw infraction, but that may change as the city seeks a consultant to review the current snow and ice removal enforcement program.

A request for quotations on B.C. Bid is looking for a successful proponent to conduct a comprehensive review of existing sidewalk snow and ice inspection methods, and enforcement procedures through to the prosecution phase.

If the work goes ahead, its scope would include examining and recommending process on the notification of snow clearing bylaw violations and penalty assessment, and reviewing and making recommendations on “the routine enforcement, litigation, and prosecution methods currently in practice” for violators.

One former Vancouver NPA councillor told Global News this type of review seems unnecessary given the bylaws are clear.

READ MORE: For over 10,000 snowy sidewalk warnings, Vancouver might only issue about 500 fines

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“Just start enforcing. Stop studying,” said George Affleck.

Under the city’s Street and Traffic Bylaw, homeowners and residents must clear their sidewalks of snow and ice by 10 a.m. after a snowfall.

Non-compliance could result in the snow and ice being removed at the owner or occupier’s expense — with the city potentially launching court action to recover the costs.

City of Vancouver under pressure to fine more homeowners for snow removal
City of Vancouver under pressure to fine more homeowners for snow removal

Vancouver’s education-over-enforcement approach gives offenders two “soft” notices before a ticket, and fines are rarely issued.

Case in point: the 2016-2017 winter season, where snowy and icy sidewalks were a scourge across the city.

READ MORE: Rich Shaughnessy homeowners guilty of not shovelling their snow

During the height of the snow clearing disaster, the city issued more than 10,267 warning notices over a ten week period.

However, little more than 500 cases were prosecuted for potential fines of between $250 and $2,500.

At the time, the city said “soft” notices helped people to comply in 80 to 85 per cent of the snow-clearing requests that were made.

Other major Canadian cities provide derelict shovellers one or no warnings before fines are issued.

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The City of Calgary issues one warning before offenders are slapped with a minimum $250 fine, along with a bill of at least $150 for the city to do the work.

Edmontonians face a $100 fine and cleanup costs. Warnings are not always issued.

READ MORE: Icy sidewalks, bus stops in Vancouver spark outrage

If there’s no snow removal action after one warning in Toronto, charges are laid and you could be billed for city crews to do the job.

Many Vancouver residents Global News spoke with on Sunday said they would support a one-warning system before fines, while at least one renter suggested it would be nice not to have to pay any penalty if she or her roommate simply forgot to clear the walk.

And while it may pay to pick up a shovel in the future, one current NPA councillor told Global News the city needs to do its part and dig out first,  before expecting the public to dig deep.

“Before we start looking into more stronger and harsher enforcement penalties for residents, we need to make sure that were doing the job ourselves,” said Sarah Kirby-Yung.

-With files from Jesse Ferreras