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There's a nip in the air, and Salt Lake City soon may decide to soak lazy snow shovelers.
In the name of keeping sidewalks safe and navigable for pedestrians and people with disabilities, the City Council is weighing hefty fines for homeowners and especially "deadbeat" landlords who fail to clear their public walkways of snow, sleet or hail within 24 hours of a storm.
If the measure passes, capital residents would face a $50 ticket after day one, $75 after day two and $100 if the sidewalk remains snowy after 72 hours.
Those escalating citation amounts would double for any property owner with street frontage of more than 200 feet.
"We're serious," says Councilman Luke Garrott, who initiated the legislation. "What we've seen anecdotally is the greatest offenders are absentee landlords and businesses that don't give a hoot. We're really looking for habitual offenders."
Right now, citations for snow-removal scofflaws are $25 if paid within 15 days. If paid between 16 and 25 days of issuance, fines are $50. They max out at $75 after 25 days.
There would be no break for early payment under the amended ordinance.
"The requirement for abutting property owners to clear sidewalks of snow has been in effect for over 20 years, but each year we struggle with education and enforcement," Council Chairman J.T. Martin says. "It is vital that our city sidewalks are clear for pedestrians and those in wheelchairs."
The city also proposes changing the enforcing body. Instead of parking enforcement, snow citations would be issued through planning and zoning.
Garrott says that department is reasonable about giving warnings.
"People shouldn't expect to get popped for a first violation," he says. "We ask a lot of our citizens, and we are thankful for their efforts to take care of our sidewalks and curb strips. Since snowplows on sidewalks are not possible, we hope that people see snow shoveling as an important civic duty."
Mayor Ralph Becker's office elected not to comment Friday on the proposed changes, which have been in the works for more than two years.
Nothing in the ordinance addresses residents who are physically unable to remove snow or sleet. Short of a volunteer network, Garrott says, the city must count on the "reasonableness" of the enforcement officers in those cases.
He also called on neighbors to help neighbors and for businesses and landlords to make arrangements during winter storms.
So, could an absentee landlord or vacationing homeowner be on the hook for hundreds of dollars after, say, two weeks of snowy sidewalks? City staffers note the discretion is up to the enforcement officer.
But the letter of the law is as ominous as a whiteout. "Each day such sidewalk is not so cleared shall constitute a new violation," the ordinance reads.
If approved, the stiffer fines for negligent snow removal would take effect Nov. 1.
P The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday will discuss increasing the fines for failing to remove hail, snow or sleet from the sidewalk within 24 hours of a storm. The council work session is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. in Room 326 at City Hall, 451 S. State St. A public hearing on the new fines will be held Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in Room 315, the council's chambers. If approved, the ordinance changes would take effect Nov. 1.