By Richie Carni
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
EAST LANSING—After one of the snowiest winters in recent years, East Lansing has implemented a new snow ordinance that will take effect next snow season. The ordinance, which is an expansion of the current snow-removal regulations, was passed in an effort to make the process more efficient and eliminate confusion.
Councilwoman Ruth Beier, a key part in the introduction of this ordinance, said public safety was another big motivation.
“We have 20,000 people that walk every day on those sidewalks,” Beier said. “And I don’t want to be a city councilperson when somebody gets killed because they had to walk in the street. I would rather fine people than risk lives.”
City Manager George Lahanas said heavy snowfall shed light on some of the deficiencies in the previous ordinance.
“Last year was a very light snow winter. Now that we have these days of consecutive snowing, we see that we have to get people out there to clear their sidewalks because we have too many people walking in the street,” Lahanas said.
Lahanas said it was very difficult to enforce those situations of consecutive snowfall under the old ordinance, because it becomes very difficult to know exactly when the snow must be cleared. Under the new ordinance, snow that accumulates before noon on a sidewalk must be cleared by midnight. Any accumulation that occurs after noon on a sidewalk must be cleared by midnight of the following day.
Mayor Nathan Triplett said, “There are some residents who hire a service, so they never have to pick up a shovel themselves. There are some like me who are out there once or twice a day during the winter shoveling my own walk, and there are plenty of options in-between. How people choose to meet the requirements of the ordinance is completely up to them.”
Failure to comply with the new ordinance will result in a fine from the city. A $25 fine will be issued for a first offense, a $75 fine will be issued for a second offense and a fine of $125 will be issued for each offense beyond that.
In cases of apartments and other rental properties, Triplett said the city will issue tickets to the landlord of apartment and townhome properties, and then it is between the landlord and the tenant to figure out who is going to pay it according to their lease agreement.
Lahanas said students and homeowners should find ways to keep their sidewalks clear during holiday breaks, because tickets will still be issued even if the homeowner is not present during the time of the snowfall.
Triplett said landowners must make it a priority to work in stride with the city in keeping the sidewalks surrounding East Lansing’s 8,000 properties clear and safe.
“Ultimately, the only thing that is going to get sidewalks in the community clear is people taking responsibility for their own walk and recognizing the mutual obligation that we have to keep our city walkable and accessible to everyone during the winter,” Triplett said.