City of Steamboat to decide whether to continue unique snow-plowing arrangement for 15 property owners
November 8, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Barring a last-minute reprieve next week from the Steamboat Springs City Council, 15 private property owners along the eastern side of U.S. Highway 40 will have to start plowing snow from the stretch of sidewalk that runs from Pine Grove to Old Fish Creek Falls Road.
The city has for several years plowed this long segment of sidewalk despite city codes that call for the adjoining private property owners to maintain it just like other property owners around the city are required to do.
Some at City Hall fear that if this tradition continues, other private property owners might start coming to the city seeking the same service at the city's expense.
Relieving the city of the plowing responsibility would also allow the government to focus on other city sidewalks and increasing demands for service elsewhere.
But some of the property owners who potentially face new maintenance responsibilities and pricey snowplowing contracts along the highway are crying foul.
They also have concerns about taking over maintenance of a sidewalk area that is constantly being buried under snow by the highway snow-plowing operations.
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The City Council will decide what the city should do Tuesday night at a public meeting.
Current city officials say they aren't sure why the city took on the plowing responsibility years ago, and employees who are thought to have started the tradition are no longer with the city.
Public Works Director Jon Snyder speculates the city started plowing it when snow removed from the highway started piling up on the sidewalk and no one else was removing it.
The sidewalk on U.S. 40 isn't the only place the city has done the plowing work for some private property owners. Up until about three years ago, the city's Parks and Recreation Department removed snow from sidewalks in front of residences in Old Town near Soda Creek Elementary School.
But that tradition ended at the direction of former Steamboat City Manager Deb Hinsvark. The city also ended a similar practice of plowing sidewalks near Central Park Plaza.
The city said all of the plowing arrangements were counter to city code, which reads: “The owner, occupant or agent of the owner of any building, property or vacant lot is required to maintain the sidewalks, the parking area and the curbs (the area from the property line to the gutter) adjoining the building, property or vacant lot…”
Snyder said the sidewalk along U.S. 40 is the last remaining segment being plowed by the city despite codes that he said put the responsibility on private property owners.
"The question we're asking council is who should be responsible for this sidewalk in the future?" Snyder said.
Snyder also pointed out the city does not clear snow from the sidewalks downtown with the exception of the ones in front of city buildings.
The city spends between $3,000 and $3,500 a year plowing the sidewalk from Pine Grove to Old Fish Creek Falls Road. Snyder said the work takes about 30 to 35 hours each winter. City crews use a loader to remove the snow.
Last fall, the city sent out notices to the 15 private property owners along the highway informing them the city planned to discontinue the plowing starting this winter. Snyder said the response the city got back was limited.
Some property owners plan to ask the City Council Tuesday night to continue the city's plowing arrangement.
Brian Harvey, who heads the Steamboat Ridge Townhomes homeowners association, said residents who live off of Old Fish Creek Falls Road don't have an access from their property to the sidewalks along U.S. 40.
"It is well over 60 feet, and probably 100 feet, from our property line down to the sidewalk," Harvey said. "If our front doors went down to the sidewalk, it makes sense for that to be our responsibility … I'm just not sure how we could manage that portion of the sidewalk."
Robin Hanley, who owns and operates the nearby River Ridge apartments with her husband, John, shares Harvey’s concerns.
“We have no access to the property,” she said. “CDOT stores snow on it, so how are we supposed to manage their plowing all over a portion of sidewalk that we don’t use?”
Harvey said he thinks the city code requiring nearby sidewalk maintenance is more applicable to a business that has customers using the sidewalks. He added his HOA already pays thousands of dollars to remove snow from a private road used by residents.
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