Snow Season: City Ponders What to Plow, What Not to Plow

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
October 12th, 2016

When is a public roadway a “private driveway”?  At its regular meeting on Tuesday, October 11, 2016, Rossland City Council (minus only Mayor Kathy Moore) examined a proposal that would save the City an amount estimated at a little over $11,700 for an average plowing season.  

The suggestion was to amend the City’s policy on snow removal from roads, sidewalks and stairs by permitting the city “not to plow single dwelling roadways excluding any single dwelling roadway which allows the City maintenance access to infrastructure or makes it easier and/or possible for operators to do their job.”

The proposal listed 34 areas that would be omitted from snow removal operations to achieve the savings, if Council approved the proposal.  That list had been whittled down from the 2015 proposal, which was not implemented after the City received  objections from several residents.  The Interim CAO at that time had sent letters to owners of properties that would be affected under his proposal.

Objections in 2015  included statements that:

·         the residents would not have bought their property if they had known the City-owned roadway leading to their private driveway would not be plowed;  

·         that they would not have settled in Rossland at all if they had known that  plowing of the road to their home would be discontinued;  

·         that their property would lose resale value if the City stopped snow removal service from the City-owned roadway, and that they would suffer real financial loss if they sold — which they would want to do if snow removal were discontinued.

Councillor Lloyd McLellan stated that he thinks the City should continue plowing as it has historically done; he thinks that with the City having to trim other services and increase taxes, and considering the amount of snow Rossland usually gets, the impact on residents  would be too great.  He pointed out that there would likely be a “backlash” which would also be expensive in terms of staff time.

Councillor Aaron Cosbey moved that the City continue its usual snow removal for this winter, and discussion continued.   Cosbey commented that the City should not even “float the idea” until it knows what it wants to do.

Manager of Public Works Darrin Albo explained that staff had spend about six hours to work out a “defensible” proposal, and that the one presented to Council was the best they could do.

Councillor Marten Kruysse, looking forward, wondered if new builds might compound the problem of City plowing that serves too few; but City Planner Stacey Lightbourne explained that if someone wants to build a house that would use City access as their personal driveway, they are required to sign an agreement accepting responsibility for all maintenance of that access.

Councillor Andy Morel sees the current plowing of streets that serve only one residence as “unfair to the majority of  residents in town” because “the City has been providing a service to a select number or residences in town that the vast majority don’t have.”  He said,  “It was easier for me to say, look, we’re not responsible for individual driveways, even though they may be City property, it’s considered an individual private driveway.  It’s your personal access. So why should we be responsible?”  

Councillor John Greene wondered if the City could continue plowing as usual, but charge the residents in question for the privilege; but Albo explained that the City doesn’t want to compete with private businesses, and CAO Bryan Teasdale raised several other reasons not to consider that approach, including potential liability.

Kruysse wondered whether the City could continue plowing the areas in question but “at a lower standard,”  and Zwicker suggested adding another, lower “priority level” to the plowing plan.   Albo explained that most of the roadways and parking areas proposed to be left unplowed already do receive a lower standard of service than the more heavily used roadways.

Zwicker also suggested offering to sell the City-owned roadways to the owners; Lightbourne explained that the process of closing a public road right-of-way  and offering it for sale is complex and expensive,  and Kruysse commented, “So you’d have to pay for it and it wouldn’t get plowed.”  Lightbourne commented further that most of the roadways have public services underground.

Cosbey’s motion that the City continue to plow according to its current policy  for the upcoming snow season CARRIED unanimously.

Greene moved that Council reconsider the issue next June.   His motion CARRIED, with McLellan opposed for all the reasons he had raised earlier in the discussion.

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