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MD of Bighorn light on new snow clearing bylaw fines

“As we go through this exercise it’s going to be a learning experience for the municipality and for residents.”

MD OF BIGHORN – The MD of Bighorn wants ratepayers to warm up to a new wintry duty.

The day before more than three millimetres of snow fell in the Bow Valley Nov. 15, MD council passed a bylaw requiring residents and businesses to shovel snow and ice within 48 hours of depositing or forming on sidewalks adjacent to their properties.

“As we go through this exercise it’s going to be a learning experience for the municipality and for residents,” said Bill Luka, director of operations for the MD at the Nov. 14 council meeting.

Luka emphasized the change, enacted through an amendment to Bighorn’s highway and traffic bylaw, will focus more on education than penalties since ratepayers were not obligated to clear snow before.

“We will have to roll out an education program – put it on the website, social media – we just have to work on that. Violations, too, would be subject to warnings, we just have to work through how we’re going to do it, especially in the early transition,” he said.

Council gave all three readings with added stipulations that the bylaw undergo review in Q2 2024, and furthermore, that offenders are to receive warnings initially, and if necessary, face minimal fines. The agreed amount was $25.

If a resident or business fails to abide, the bylaw states the MD can clear the sidewalk and charge for the service. A fee that goes unpaid would be added to the responsible property’s tax roll.

Coun. Alice James, representing Ward 3, asked if other councillors were comfortable passing all three readings based on any feedback they’d received from residents in the affected hamlets of Exshaw, Lac Des Arcs, Dead Man’s Flats and Harvie Heights.

“It has come up at GPC twice already, I haven’t received any comments from it,” said Reeve Lisa Rosvold. “I think had this been the first time it was publicly presented, I would be way more apprehensive than I am today to move forward with three readings.”

It was further noted by administration that more consultation with residents would take place following the end of the 2023-24 winter season.

“Through discussions with council, at the end of the trial program, after we go through the full season, we’ll send out a questionnaire, get feedback and figure out what we’re gonna do on a permanent basis moving forward,” said Luka.

Couns. Jen Smith and Steve Fitzmorris agreed they were comfortable with passing the bylaw, which first came up for discussion at an April governance and priorities committee meeting and was bounced around with the streets and roads committee.

“It has been stated that fines will be issued more as warnings so there’s not a real cost factor to the public at this point,” Fitzmorris noted.

To inform its rule, the MD looked to snow clearing policies in Canmore, Banff, Cochrane, Calgary, and Red Deer. Required snow removal timeframes range from 24 to 48 hours, with each community carrying varying fines. Currently, Banff is looking at heftier fines for first and second-time offenders.

In September, the MD approved a policy to clear snow from sidewalks in front of public park spaces, including the ice rink and Jeffrey Park Playground in Exshaw, as well as the Dead Man's Flats ice rink, River's Bend Playground and a trail access point west of the playground. Per policy, snow must be cleared after five centimetres of accumulation within 48 hours on weekdays and weekends.

Council authorized a $6,600 quote to provide the service annually, with $2,200 required to provide the service for the remainder of this year coming from reserves.

The MD also clears snow from certain trails in Exshaw, Dead Man’s Flats, and Harvie Heights, typically from Nov. 1 to April 30. The service is on weekdays, excluding weekends and statutory holidays and is triggered by an accumulation of five cm of snow.

The MD’s winter road maintenance policy covers roads within its allowance or registered road plan and excludes snow clearing in back alleys, on non-MD-controlled roads, private property and sidewalks.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.

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