After three snowstorms in as many months, the Rehoboth Beach Streets and Transportation Committee says it will review the city’s policy toward removing snow from the sidewalks.
Committee member Cindy Lovett said the issue came up in response to snowstorms on Jan. 20 and Jan. 29 when half the businesses on Rehoboth Avenue had cleared their sidewalks and the other half had not because the businesses were closed.
City Manager Sharon Lynn said the city does not remove snow from the sidewalks, as it is the property owner’s responsibility to remove snow.
“The sidewalks this winter were treacherous,” Lovett said. She said she doesn't want people to expect the city to clear the sidewalks.
Lynn said the city’s policy has been that even if the business owner is not around, it is still their job to have someone clear the sidewalk.
At the committee’s Feb. 24 meeting, Lynn said the city’s snow removal equipment frequently breaks down. Lynn said snow removal on the streets during the Jan. 20 was not as good as it should have been because of miscommunication between her office and the public works department. Lynn said the miscommunication was over when crews were scheduled to go out. She said those issues have been cleared up, and she praised city crews for their performance during the most recent snowstorm.
Lynn said, “Having our employees physically go out and do the sidewalk, I think, would take away from what they are supposed to do on the streets.”
The committee discussed codifying the sidewalk snow removal policy, with the possibility of fines for property owners who do not clear their sidewalks in a timely fashion.
Commissioner Lorraine Zellers said, “We have to have a policy. There is some validity to saying, ‘You have so much time to clear it.’ I think most of the towns we looked at did have a time limit in which the snow, over so many inches, had to be cleared.”
The last major snowstorm to hit the Rehoboth area was a blizzard in December 2010 that dumped 12 to 15 inches of snow.
Mayor Sam Cooper said this year’s snow was harder to move around. He said normally when it snows, the weather warms up the next day, making it easier to remove the snow. That was the case in 2010, when temperatures warmed into the 40s after the storm,
This year though, particularly with the first storm, the weather stayed cold. Cooper said with no warm weather, and with traffic, it was harder for city crews to get the snow off the streets.
Cooper said it has always been city policy for the property owner to be responsible for snow removal on the sidewalks.
Lynn said she did not know how much the city has spent on snow removal in man-hours and overtime. She said she would support an ordinance clarifying that it is the property owner’s responsibility to clear the sidewalks. During the Jan. 20 storm in particular, Lynn said, for blocks the sidewalks were not cleared.
“It’s a safety issue,” she said.