Winter isn’t here yet, but the Town of Gibsons is already preparing for snowfalls. At the Committee of the Whole meeting on Tues. Oct. 3, Council was to consider a staff report on how to improve snow clearing on sidewalks.
During the snowy winter of 2016/17, the Town received dozens of phone calls from residents complaining that sidewalks were icy and treacherous. Under existing Town bylaws, property owners are responsible for clearing snow and ice from public sidewalks adjoining their property, but many did not do so.
In a memo to council, Director of Engineering Dave Newman stated: “At best it is estimated that only half of residential and commercial properties adequately cleared the sidewalks abutting their properties.”
Newman identified five high priority stretches of sidewalk along Gibsons Way, North Road, Kiwanis Way, Shaw Road, and O’Shea Road. He noted that most of those routes stretch between the two malls and two care facilities—Christenson Village on O’Shea Road and Kiwanis Village Care Home on Kiwanis Way.
Newman did not recommend that the Town take full responsibility for clearing sidewalks for liability reasons, and also because Town staff don’t have the capacity to inspect and clear all Town sidewalks every winter.
Instead, he recommended some minor changes to snow clearing policy. While property owners would still be responsible for clearing sidewalks fronting their property, he suggested giving the Town the option of sending out Parks staff to clear problem sidewalks. Property owners could be charged later for the cost of the work, but Newman recommended making those charges optional, since some residents, especially seniors, are physically unable to shovel snow.
Parks staff estimate that clearing and salting the high priority sidewalks identified in the report would take two to four hours per snowfall.
The report also recommends increased communication with property owners in advance of snow, so they understand their responsibilities.
Last winter, the Town stepped up bylaw enforcement and wrote a number of tickets. Donna McMahon