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City aims to implement abatement program for sidewalk snow removal

Longmont city officials have a plan for sidewalks that don’t get cleared.
A Longmont resident uses a snowblower to remove accumulated snow on his driveway and sidewalk during a winter storm in March 2021.

Longmont’s Planning and Development Services Department aims to present a sidewalk snow removal abatement program to City Council by the summer, said Dane Hermsen, the department’s code enforcement manager.

Hermsen and his team are working with the Public Works Department on the proposal, which would allow a contractor to clear snow off the sidewalks of businesses and residences that have received warnings, he said.

“That’s where the city can actually do the cleaning and then bill the owner for it … a lot of jurisdictions already do that,” Hermsen said. “That would be our preference, because even sometimes when we are warning people and they’re not getting it done, we don’t really have the tool to just get it cleaned up. We have to go through a process of finding them and giving them new deadlines.”

The plan would require a change to the city’s code that would make the system feasible, he explained.

“Right now, we don’t really have any mechanism to recoup money if we pay a contractor to do it,” Hermsen said.

The city has issued dozens of warnings to businesses and residences so far this winter season, he said. When those sidewalks remain filled with snow and ice, and warnings are ignored, fines have to be issued.

“We get plenty of calls from people who are slipping and falling and getting hurt out there,” Hermsen said. “I’d say the majority of people seem to follow the code and try to clear their sidewalk without having to be asked, but there are plenty that don’t get it done.”

Under Longmont Municipal Code, residents and business owners have 24 hours after snowfall to clear their sidewalks. The city offers resources for those who need help shoveling snow — Boulder County Cultivate SnowBusters pairs volunteers with people who need their driveways and sidewalks cleared, and the city’s website includes a Google search link for those looking for contractors.

The city has four full-time employees tasked with enforcing the sidewalk clearing rule, Hermsen said.

“We certainly have plenty of work out there after snow storms … we do have limited resources,” he said. “There tend to be quite a few residents who either aren’t aware of the code and don’t follow through, or aren’t able to actually clear it.”

Some houses are vacant, and city employees can’t find the responsible owner, he said.

“Sending fines to them and that kind of stuff really doesn’t have any kind of effect on the actual safety of the area,” Hermsen said. “Whereas if we could abate, we could give the owner a warning and a chance to clean it up, and then we could simply get it done so that the safety issue is mitigated, and deal with billing afterward.”

The city would likely have to go through a bidding process with sidewalk removal contractors before implementing the abatement program, he said. His team plans to present the proposal to City Council in the spring or summer.

Amber Fisher

About the Author: Amber Fisher

I'm thrilled to be an assistant editor with the Longmont Leader after spending the past decade reporting for news outlets across North America. When I'm not writing, you can find me snowboarding, reading fiction and running (poorly).
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