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Oct 20

City Council Snows The Public

Comments (4) 9:00 AM posted by admin |

Leave it to that sleazy Ypsilanti City Council to start talking about snow removal procedures, fines, and administrative fees when the weather is still in the sixties.

Leave it to that sleazy Ypsilanti City Council to place two resolutions on snow removal procedures, fines, and administrative fees at the end of an agenda that may last for several days.

Damn you Ypsilanti City Council. Damn you all to hell.

At tonight’s Ypsilanti City Council meeting, among the dozens of topics we will tackle will be that of snow removal.

Recall this past winter when Council, in an effort to make the City more walkable, strengthened its snow removal ordinance and allowed the City remove the snow from non-shoveled sidewalks at the owner’s expense. It was a rock-solid policy.

Recall this past winter when Ypsilanti City Staff tried to implement said policy and totally botched it. Contractors where given poor instructions. Some properties were warned. Most were not. Addresses on the south side of a street were confused with addresses on the north side of a street, resulting in tickets for non-compliance of properties that really were in compliance. The worst part of all of this is that black helicopter conspiracy theories abounded with some actually believing the City randomly sent out fines just to see who would pay them.

Faith in government was shaken as a result of this poor implementation of a fabulous policy.

It was a dark time in Ypsilanti. A dark, snowy time.

The ordinance is as follows:

1) Snow must be removed within 48 hours after a snowfall.
2) If a property is found to be in non-compliance, a notice will be hung on the door requesting removal. The notice will have the date / time posted and the date in which the property will be re-inspected (minimum of 18 hours).
3) The property will be re-inspected. If it is still in non-compliance, it will be scheduled for abatement.

Pretty simple.

Tonight the entire process for 2009/10 will be presented to Council. That process is as follows:

1. When a complaint is filed or a property is found to be in violation of the snow
ordinance, a notice will be hung on the front door of the dwelling. It will note the
date/time posted and the date in which the property will be re-inspected, (minimum 18
hours). The notice will be a carbon copy and the original will be retained by staff.
2. Upon re-inspection, if it is found that the responsible party has not complied with the
notice, the property will be scheduled for abatement.
3. When a group of properties have been compiled they will be added to an abatement
list that is manageable for both the contractor and city staff.
4. Photographs of the properties in violation will be taken prior to the abatement taking
5. Properties that have been completed by the contractor will be re-inspected by staff at
the end of the same day.
6. When snow/ice has been satisfactorily removed by the contractor, the responsible
party will be invoiced for the work that was performed at their property.

It’s not bad. The only thing I would revise would be Step #2. I’d change it to the following:

2) Upon re-inspection, if it is found that the responsible party has not complied with the
notice, the property will be scheduled for abatement, and a civil infraction will be issued.

Voice your concerns tonight at City Hall walking in a winter wonderland.


  1. Comment by rodneyn
    October 20, 2009 @ 11:29 am

    Last year’s policy had an immediate effect in our neighborhood, where the few folks who never took care of their walks stepped up and did so. Walking on Summit St. before the policy took effect, perhaps 80-90% of homes cleared their walks regularly (a good starting point!).

    After the first snowfall following the policy’s announcement, only one property along the entire length of Summit St. (it was on N. Summit) left their walk snowcovered more than 24 hours later.

    I hope the enforcement issue has been addressed.

    The only change I would recommend is to #4 – when the contractor comes out and the walk has clearly been cleared from that previous snowfall), then the property will not be charged for the contractor’s time.

    The reason for this is to help keep the contractor honest, especially in cases where a more recent snowfall has partially recovered a belatedly cleared walk AFTER step 2-3 has taken place.

    I’m OK with the addition of the civil infraction as an option at step #2, but ONLY if you have true enforcement professionals who know how to use common sense. Since this is still unlikely from our City Administration, you may want to hold off on this part.

    Once a citation has been issues the City Attorney and District Court are involved, so this action is expensive and difficult to undo.

    If you really want it in there now, perhaps adding a requirement that the enforcement officer must actually speak with the owner (in person or by phone) before issuing the citation. That way, there is reasonable opportunity for the enforcement officer to use his/her professional judgment to determine whether a citation is necessary to compel compliance.

  2. Comment by rodneyn
    October 20, 2009 @ 11:31 am

    Let’s try this paragraph again:

    “Once a citation has been issued and the City Attorney and District Court are involved, this action is expensive and difficult to undo.”

    That’s a bit better….. 🙂

  3. Comment by Kurt Anschuetz
    October 21, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

    I would start the process at hour 30 telling the owner that they are 18 hours away from being in violation.

    At hour 48 a citation should be issued for non-compliance and the property scheduled for abatement.

    Are the fines and abatement costs going to be large enough for businesses like the old Motor Wheel plant to remove their snow?

    What about ice?
    Michigan Ladder finally began removing snow for the first time in many years but they have a roof design that causes the sidewalk to become ice covered. Shouldn’t the ordinance be more about walkable sidewalks than snow specific?

  4. Comment by brobb
    October 22, 2009 @ 8:32 am

    I think your recommendation about 30 hours would create more work for the enforcement officer that isn’t required.

    We can ticket at 48 hours when we give the warning. That was the recommendation of Council member Murdock. The ordinance officer has to come back 18 hours later to issue the notice of abatement (or see that the walk has been cleared). I suggested ticketing at that time so not to have any due process issues if any ticket should ever go to court. I’m flexible on that point and would agree to the 48 hours if a compelling argument was made.

    The civil infraction cost is the same whether it’s a commercial or residential property. Council member Murdock again brought up the idea of whether or not a $15, $50, or $100 ticket would be incentive enough for the Motor Wheel’s of the City to shovel their sidewalks. My response was it didn’t matter. When it comes time for the City to abate a property as large as Motor Wheel, the cost of abatement will easily be over $1,000. That’s the incentive.

    What I’m trying to create is a better system that is easier on the property owner but still sends the message that you must clear your sidewalk of snow. If after 48 or 66 hours you haven’t cleared the snow from your walk and you are found in violation, you get a $15 ticket as a first offense. I believe that will be enough incentive to shovel. Otherwise, a violator will be hit with a $100 abatement charge. The way I’m looking at is that $15 fine could save you $85 in the long run. After the first $15 ticket, a property owner is far more likely to shovel next time it snows.

    As far as ice goes, I’m being very broad when I speak of snow. The ordinance includes both ice and snow.

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