OLD TOWN – Business owners who have come to rely on the city clearing their sidewalks of snow will have to fend for themselves starting next year.

In 1983, a city ordinance was passed requiring business owners in the downtown area to clean up the sidewalks in front of their properties after a snowstorm. Over the years though, the city’s public works department started clearing in front of a business here, another there.

That has created inconsistencies in expectations, Public Works Director John Rouleau told the city council last week. And to prevent rifts between business owners, Rouleau said start enforcing the ordinance. The city would continue to clear sidewalks in residential areas – about 22 miles of them, Rouleau added.

Councilors agreed the task of sidewalk snow removal should fall on business owners and that problems with uncleared walks seemed to have increased in recent years. but wondered who would enforce the ordinance. Rouleau said business owners would need to be notified first, and that he would be willing to go door to door; letters also would be sent to notify of the change in policy. Ultimately, enforcement would be a police function, said Rouleau.

He said trying to do so this year probably would be moving too fast, and suggested the change start with next winter. That would allow time to notify everyone.

Rouleau added that it would behoove many business owners to clear the sidewalks, as their property line runs to the edge of the road. If somebody falls and gets hurt, the onus for liability already falls on the property’s owners, said Roleau.

The ordinance requires business owners to have their sidewalks clear four hours after a storm stops if it snows during the day; it if snows at night, sidewalks will need to be cleared by 10 a.m.

Councilors agreed the city should enforce the ordinance as written. No vote was needed.

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