Yorker: City dumped snow on sidewalk, threatens fine

Sean Philip Cotter

Joyce Kopp and her family shoveled away the more than 2 1/2 feet of snow winter storm Jonas dropped on their sidewalk the day after the flakes started falling.

Joyce Kopp holds a snow removal notice that was placed on the door of her York City home Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. She said the sidewalks in front of her home were cleared by family and friends but city crews dumped a pile of snow over it (background). Residents who don't clear sidewalks adjacent to their homes face fines of $100 or more. Bill Kalina photo

"We had everything clean," said the 67-year-old York City resident, who lives at the corner of East Cottage Place and Pine Street.

At least, she said, it was before the city crews came in with a front loader last week and dumped several-foot-high piles of dense, frozen snow onto about 20 feet of the sidewalk around her property.

"It’s heavy," she said. "It's deep."

She said she called the city, leaving messages with the public works department once and then the mayor's office "at least twice," but no one called her back.

"I told them in the message, I don't want to get into trouble," she said.

So she was very concerned on Monday, when she found a notice on her doorknob: a "friendly reminder" to remove the snow or face the possibility of a $100-plus fine. The all-caps notice also says — underlined in red ink — "Please do your best not to pile it up on the sidewalk along the curb."

Official: Steve Buffington, York City's deputy director of permits, planning and zoning, said he doesn't expect her to be cited.

"I asked our property maintenance inspectors to use some discretion," Buffington said. He said he's aware there are some corners such as Kopp's property where front loaders did dump snow on the sidewalk. If the inspectors do see a big mound of snow that clearly was dumped there, they're supposed to give people a break.

He said, though, the responsibility is on her to eventually get it cleared. If the city plows snow up on the curb, or even, as is the case here, dumps it there, it's still on the resident to make the sidewalk passable, Buffington said.

"I don’t know what else they expect the city to do with the snow," he said.

More time: It's in the city's ordinances that property owners have to clear a 36-inch-wide channel for people to walk on the sidewalks surrounding their properties. Normally, people have to have it cleared within 12 hours after the snow stops falling, but the city suspended that following the huge snowstorm Jan. 23, announcing that it wouldn't be enforced at all until this Monday, more than eight days after the snow stopped.

Kopp said the city has dumped snow on her sidewalk before, but she got in touch with officials and someone came and cleared it away.

Buffington said that was very unlikely to happen this time.

"The city does not have people available to clear private sidewalks, that’s for sure," Buffington said. He said anyone with concerns such as this should call the city's public works department at (717) 849-2245, as Kopp says she did.

When what Buffington said was relayed to Kopp, she broke down in tears.

"It's not fair," she said. "I just can't shovel it."

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com.