City grants amnesty for snow removal ordinance

By Gwenn Barney

More than a week after the Snowpocalypse, many Oakland sidewalks are still caked with heavy,… More than a week after the Snowpocalypse, many Oakland sidewalks are still caked with heavy, ankle-deep snow.

The lack of snow removal not only is a nuisance — it violates a city ordinance that orders Pittsburgh residents to shovel sidewalks in front of their properties 24 hours after the snowfall.

“We’re not enforcing the law now,” city Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski said Monday, especially with more snow expected this week.

Kaczorowski said that because of the abnormally large amount of snow, the city government is making an exception to the ordinance.

The city Public Works Department is in charge of removing the snow from public areas as well as issuing the aforementioned citations.

Kaczorowski noted that the city does not give out the citations often, expecting that citizens will responsibly shovel their property. Usually, the citation is only warranted if an unshoveled sidewalk is deemed a safety hazard by city officials.

During a typical snowfall, property owners who do not shovel the snow from their property and sidewalk can be issued a citation by the Public Works Department or the city’s Bureau of Building Inspection stating that they must remove the snow within 24 hours, or — in special situations — within a given amount of time that the department feels is sufficient to complete the job. Should the citizen neglect to complete shoveling, they can be fined $25.

The ordinance defining the rules of sidewalk snow removal for the city, defined by Title 4, Article 1, Chapter 419.03 of the Pittsburgh Code of Ordinances, says, “Every tenant, occupant or owner having the care or charge of any land or building fronting on any street in the city, where there is a sidewalk paved with concrete, brick, stone or other material shall, within twenty-four (24) hours after the fall of any snow or sleet, or the accumulation of ice caused by freezing rainfall, cause the same to be removed from the sidewalk.”

In the case of apartments, Berger and Green personal injury attorney Mark Milsop said the landlord is typically responsible for makingsure the sidewalk in front of their property is cleared. However, when it comes to rental properties, the renter must check his lease to know whether or not he is responsible for snow removal.

Kaczorowski asked that residents try to shovel their property, though.

“This is unique,” he said. “Obviously there is a safety issue.”

Though no citations are currently being assessed, people who neglect to shovel snow on or near their properties can still potentially be sued for negligence if the lack of snow removal contributes to an injury.

“Even if the municipalities decide not to levy the fines, if someone slips and falls on your property, you can still be sued,” Attorney Whitney Hughes of the Allegheny County Bar Administration said. “Chances are if there is an ordinance in place you will be found liable. They’re giving people a pass right now on the fines, but they’re leaving the ordinance on the books,” she said.