Shovel your sidewalk – it’s the law in Snoqualmie now

The Snoqualmie City Council passed an ordinance on Jan. 25 that declares it is a property owner’s responsibility to clear snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to their house.

The ordinance mandates that residents have up to 48 hours to shovel snow onto the street, or de-ice the sidewalks. The ordinance can be enforced with a $25 fine after two previous warnings.

Strong debate at the council meeting was reflected in the vote, and the ordinance barely passed with a 4-3 vote. Councilmembers Matthew Laase, James Mayhew and Bob Jeans voted against the ordinance.

During the large winter storm in 2019 known as “Snowmageddon,” there were residents who had trouble using the sidewalks. This was especially bad for some residents with disabilities, who rely on walking through the city and found it dangerous or impossible to do so with ice and snow on the sidewalks.

Mayhew said instead of passing an ordinance with penalties, the city should first try and educate residents about their responsibility to clear the sidewalks. He said some people won’t be able to clear the sidewalks outside their homes safely, including some people with disabilities, elderly residents and people with health conditions. Although the bill exempts these groups, there is no definition of who would qualify in the ordinance.

“I think we should instead focus on creating some community solutions to assist people in clearing their sidewalks,” Mayhew said.

A proposed amendment to pass the ordinance without a fine was voted down by the council.

Other councilmembers like Sean Sundwall voted for the ordinance. He argued that right now, there is no one required to clear sidewalks. The ordinance created an expectation of who is supposed to be shoveling sidewalks and de-icing them.

“I think we have to do that,” he said of passing the ordinance. “Until then, it’s sort of just a nice thing.”

Councilmember Peggy Shepard said this kind of ordinance is not unusual for other cities.

The ordinance had been discussed twice before, during a Nov. 17 Parks and Public Works Council Committee meeting, and again on Dec. 14 during a regular city council meeting.

Snow and rain were in the forecast for the week of Jan. 31.