Editor's note: Originally published in February 2021.
Winter storms can create treacherous conditions for motorists, and while it’s important to keep roads clear for vehicles, pedestrians also need a safe way to get around.
Snowplows and shovelers have been busy this winter. In some cases, efforts to clear one surface have resulted in creating obstacles on another.
Laurie Stanton ran into such an issue recently when her walk to work was interrupted by a pile of snow at Manor Street and Hershey Avenue in Lancaster city that was the result of a snowplow clearing a Getty Food Mart convenience store’s parking lot and pushing the snow onto the sidewalk.
“It was high enough that I had to walk on the street but then got to a certain point where it spilled too far out and there was no room to walk around it safely,” Stanton said.
The entire corner was covered in snow almost 3 feet high, she said.
For Stanton, the obstacle was a minor inconvenience, “but a person with a disability or relying on an electric wheelchair could not navigate that corner in the condition it was,” she said.
The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and subsequent revised regulations to the law require state and local governments to, among other things, improve curbs to make them accessible to people with disabilities.
But who is responsible to remove snow from ADA-compliant curbs?
Property owners must keep the sidewalk adjacent to their property clear of snow and ice.
“This means that one of the added responsibilities of a corner property owner is to clear the sidewalk ramp as it enters the street because the ramp is part of the sidewalk,” said Patrick Hopkins, the city’s Americans with Disability Act coordinator.
In the case of the sidewalk ramp where Stanton ran into the pile of snow, the Getty Food Mart at 1000 Manor St. is responsible for making sure the ramp is always clear.
After Watchdog reached out to both municipalities, they began working together to determine who would enforce the code in this case because the convenience store’s parcel is located in both the city and Lancaster Township.
“We work cooperatively with the city because there are so many shared issues where municipal lines don’t necessarily follow property lines,” said Michael Hamlin, Lancaster Township’s superintendent for public works.
“That property is considered Lancaster Township. The city, however, covers the sidewalks,” said Cory Simo, of the city’s department of public works.
The city’s ordinance requires snow and ice to be cleared within five hours after a storm ends during daylight. If it stops between dusk and dawn, snow and ice must be cleared by 10 a.m. The city can fine $25 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses in the same season.
“If the sidewalk is not cleared after the fine, we could send a contractor to the property and the owner would be responsible for the contractor’s fees,” Simo said.
Lancaster Township’s code requires that sidewalks are cleared no later than 48 hours after snow or sleet has ceased to fall and prohibits shoveling, pushing, blowing or plowing snow into the streets.
Based on the violation, the owner of the property could have been fined, but the issue was resolved before a citation could be issued after city workers cleared the sidewalk and curb ramp earlier this week. The township did contact the property owner to explain the snow removal ordinance.
“I just want to able access the ramp to cross the street without getting killed, that’s all I want,” Stanton said.