The Ann Arbor City Council extensively debated changes to an ordinance that addresses the maintenance of sidewalks, specifically related to snow and ice removal policy. A vote on the amendment was ultimately postponed.
Monday’s meeting proceeded amid a silent protest condemning police brutality surrounding the killing of Aura Rosser, an Ann Arbor resident who was shot by a police officer in November. Protesters held signs and remained silent during the meeting, and Council continued with the meeting as scheduled.
The current city policy states residents must clear their sidewalks of snow within 24 hours if snow exceeds one inch. New language proposed would require residents to remove snow on their sidewalks within 24 hours regardless of the accumulation.
During discussion, councilmembers argued that the current snow removal policy is difficult to enforce. Multiple amendments were proposed and additional changes were discussed after members of the public were allowed to express their concerns. These stricter amendments would directly affect students living off campus, who could be subject to more severe consequences if a future ordinance were to pass.
The Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force recommended several changes to the ordinance. The changes to the ordinance clarify property owners’ responsibility in regard to snow and ice removal. The changes also seek to clarify the consequences for noncompliance.
Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) said he would support amending the ordinance, though he noted critics who argue a dusting of snow does not present a hazard to pedestrians.
“Let’s have the conversation after we’ve tried it,” Warpehoski said. “We are unable to enforce the ordinance in years that there is been frequent snow … The existing ordinance requires that each citation have a warning before it so if we are getting snow after snow after snow… we have property owners that can just ride that out without citation.”
Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) offered a substitution amendment. Briere suggested Council consider removing language that implied a property owner must remove snow or ice immediately, as snow may fall at inconvenient times such as in the middle of the night or day.
After an extensive public hearing session in which eight residents expressed their concerns pertaining to this resolution, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said the need for clear sidewalks is crucial to the citizens of Ann Arbor and that standards should not be lowered.
According to research by the Ann Arbor Pedestrian Task Force, changes requiring snow removal at any accumulation are necessary and would bring Ann Arbor to state standards.
“What we’ve heard from the Pedestrian Safety Task Force is that truly dozens of Michigan cities have an all snow standard,” Taylor said. “Buffalo has an all snow standard.”
“… I think that we’ve heard today that our residents rely on the sidewalks for transit, and we should do all we can to ensure that they’re passable to all that need them, and although I appreciate a lot of what’s in here, I think walking back for me, walking back from that standard, is a place I’d rather not go,” Taylor said.
Council will reevaluate this issue after a public hearing scheduled for April 20, where they hope to listen to more comments from members of the Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article stated that Rosser was killed in December. The incident occurred in November.