Whitehall News

City likely to remove ordinance requiring sidewalk shoveling


Whitehall officials say the city hasn't cited anyone for failure to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice, but they still want to remove city laws that require such action.

City officials plan to form a new volunteer organization by next year to help residents who are unable to clear sidewalks in front of their residences.

Under existing city code, residents could be charged with a minor misdemeanor for failure to remove fresh snow or ice from sidewalks within four hours of sunrise.

The revised ordinance was scheduled for City Council's second reading March 18, after ThisWeek's press time, and is scheduled for a third and final reading April 1.

Councilman Wes Kantor, who requested and introduced the ordinance, said the measure is not intended to absolve or discourage residents from the responsibility of clearing snow and ice, but to remove from the city code a violation that cannot be enforced.

According to a 1993 decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, in the case of Brinkman v. Ross, residents have no common-law duty to remove the natural accumulation of snow and ice from sidewalks.

The case concerned a person who had sued a homeowner after slipping and falling on a sidewalk covered with ice and snow. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling in favor of the plaintiff, citing the plaintiff was aware of the inherent risk of walking on a sidewalk covered by snow or ice.

Whitehall's ordinance making it a misdemeanor for failure to clear sidewalks of snow and ice is believed to have been adopted in the early 1970s, and the city has no record of any individual having been cited, Kantor said.

He raised the issue of the ordinance after witnessing children walking in the street to school on numerous occasions this winter.

It was more frequent, Kantor said, because of the severity of this winter.

"It just wasn't safe for our kids," said Kantor, who, upon inquiring about the possibility of enforcement, learned of the Supreme Court case.

Instead, Kantor said, he will lead an effort to form a volunteer organization to help residents with snow removal.

Details are yet to be established, but social media is likely to play a significant role. Kantor also said volunteers would be vetted.

In other matters:

A public hearing was scheduled for March 18 for an ordinance rezoning a parcel at 4123 and 4125 E. Main St. from R-3 residential to OD office district. The rezoning is necessary because the property owner, Eastern Union Bible College, intends to use the property for additional parking, Council President Jim Graham said.