Floyd violated its own snow removal ordinance

South Locust Street in front of Warren G. Lineberry Park: 96 hours after the storm
South Locust Street in front of Warren G. Lineberry Park: 96 hours after the storm

Floyd mayor-elect Will Griffin provides this copy of the town’s snow removal ordinance:

TOWN OF FLOYD ORDINANCE

SECTION15-21  DUTY OF PROPERTY OWNERS AND TENANTS TO REMOVE SNOW FROM SIDEWALKS.

Within twenty-four (24) hours after a snowfall, each property owner shall remove the snow from the paved sidewalk in front of his property.  If the property is rented, the tenant shall remove the snow.

“We are obviously in defiance of our own zoning ordinances, as are many businesses in town,” Griffin said. “The timing of the snow combined with the volume of the snow make for a bad scene, especially for the shop owners.”

It took the town 72 hours to shovel a narrow path through the snow in front of the town’s municipal parking lot. Some Floyd business owners grumbled that they had their parking lots cleared Saturday long before the town got to its own lots.

On Wednesday, sidewalks on Locust Street still remained blocked. While most businesses shoveled at least a narrow path in front of their establishments, the clearing stopped at property lines and large mounds of snow forced pedestrians into the street. Also, sidewalks in front of many homes throughout Floyd remained untouched 96 hours after the snow ended.

Griffin said he has asked Town Manager Korene Thompson to look into the matter.

6 thoughts on “Floyd violated its own snow removal ordinance”

  1. If I lived in Floyd, with as much snow as you all have, I’d ask to have the sidewalk removed from any perimeter of my property. I can’t imagine having a 75 ft length of sidewalk in front of my house, averaging 4 feet wide and then catching one of thos 20″ snows and having to shovel it all in 24 hours. Probably in most cases, the sidewalk doesn’t even belong to the resident or business owner, but actually belongs to the city and is located in some right of way. So how can the town government legally require citizens to provide labor to work on city, county, or even state, depending on who owns the street? I guess it’s like being drafted for the army or something. The snow shovel brigade! Stupidity like this is why I don’t live in a municipality. I wouldn’t even live in a county or province if there were a state that didn’t have them.

    Dread

  2. It’s gonna get worse. The National Weather Service has issued an ice storm warning — yes, an ice storm — for Floyd County for Christmas Day.

  3. Why don’t you get Al Gore or one of his Global Warming associates to take care of the snow and the pending ice storm. Somebody call Copenhagen for advice. There’s plenty of hot air there to melt all the snow in Floyd County.

  4. Doug-

    I perused the code the town has, and to be honest, it will not stand up in court. Lets look at this from a legal aspect of a property owner:

    The property has a sidewalk on the highway side, right (lets leave out such fiascoes as the “greenway walk” that is behind the village square, station, whatever you want to call it this month)? The fact it is on the PUE (public utilities easement) and the states ROW (right of way) negates any advantages of the property the sidewalk is on (basically, the sidewalk is on the property owners land, but the property owner has no ability to utilize that property for anything constructive, even parking cars on the ROW will land you in a heap of crap, BTDT).

    IF there was ever a legal battle that would come of a property owner refusing to maintain AT THEIR EXPENSE a fixture (a sidewalk would be considered a fixture I do believe) that is in all other manners done by the state or town (they built it, they fix it if it breaks….in most towns. in Floyd they just ignore it and shovel some gravel in the holes whilst sending as much money to the other side of the stoplight, but thats another matter all together), there are so many nuances that could arise it would be suicide to attempt to file suit and expect to win.

    Sorry for the sentence structure, I am no grammatical genius when I work on getting my point across.

    It would be likened to the county telling me that I had to mow the grass on their ROW in front of my shop, and that they would fine me if I didnt. It is the responsibility of the locality to maintain their ROW’s. Go to any pump station in the Floyd PSA’s district, and you will see a nicely mowed and weedeated lawn. Go to any of Citizens switchgear houses, and you will see the same thing. VDOT mows the road banks (not as often as they did a few years back, but nonetheless they do make a valiant effort). James and Paul (workers for the Town of Floyd) do an excellent job of mowing the grass at the sidewalks, painting the curbs, and sweeping the streets with one of the most underthought out purchases the town could have bought. Why is it that all other duties that the town does are not cast upon the property owner also?

    Cause there is no way in HELL that any property owner would allow it. Same as why several people made a nice little statement by not shoveling their walks. Is it morally right? Depends on how you look at it. Not even going on the subject of where the town focuses their energies on infrastructure updating, business development, and tourism promotion, if I was a property owner in the town and had to deal with threats of fines if I didnt clear my sidewalk in a set time period…..I would likely be the asshole that doesnt do it on time just to make a point.

    Of course, I am a crotchety person anyways, that goes without saying.

    Cliff notes: the ordinance would not hold water in court, and they are banking on the fact no one will call their bluff on it. I would say to ask the Town or Counties lawyer on this matter….but I have a feeling that would entail an answer similar to mine, but would come with a legal bill most likely.

  5. Joey:

    I’m afraid the Commonwealth of Virginia disagrees with you. Virginia law grants counties and municipalities the right to enact snow removal ordinances. Writes Benny L. Kass, the legal expert on housing issues for The Washington Post:

    “In Virginia, counties and cities have the authority to enact laws requiring snow removal, but only if they are “reasonable” and provide “reasonable time frames for compliance and reasonable exceptions for handicapped and elderly persons.” The Virginia Code limits the penalties for failing to adhere to such local ordinances to $100.”

    Legal challenges have been filed against local snow removal ordinances but the legality of the ordinances have been upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court. The top court did rule that homeowners are not liable is someone slips and falls on ice or snow on a sidewalk in front of their house but the court also said localities have a right to require removal of snow and to impose fines for those who fail to comply.

    We can argue until the cows come home over whether or not a law is valid (and many such arguments have dominated discussions on this web site) but a layman is not going to get very far trying to play lawyer and interpret ordinances written by lawyers. If you want to change the law, the best way is to petition the town to do so or get a state legislator involved.

    Personally, I don’t give a damn if a homeowner in Floyd shovels his sidewalk or not. If a business owner wants customers to come to his or her door then they need to clear a path.

    My issue was the hypocrisy of the town having a snow removal ordinance that the government itself did not obey.

    • Hypocrisy is rampant in gubment, dontcha know? lol.

      Business owners in Floyd were pretty much the only ones out on Sat evening and on Sunday. During the time I froze my ass off getting my driveway cleared at my rental property, digging out about five people stuck on the side of the road, and helping out a few other business owners, I saw about four individuals shoveling, and it was mainly only their driveway so they could get out.

      I take that back, I cant recall a single homeowner clearing the sidewalk at all. Mr. Wood had his sidewalk cleared when his lot was done, the walk was cleared at Oddfellas, Janice was out shoveling at Farmers Supply, and Bobby was out clearing the funeral home all day on Sunday. I think Blue Ridge got done later that day, and Sun was getting cleared later on also.

      Dennis had someone clear a path for his car to be able to get out, and like everyone else was doing, the snow was pushed onto the sidewalk. Not sure if there was a hidden meaning there or not. The only thing I saw cleared that was related to the town or county was the firehouse parking lot (its always the first to get cleared, for good reason) and the courthouse lot, but the courthouse lot was done by Shortts Excavating, under contract.

      The sidewalks were never touched, nor was the town office for a few days either.

      But, its to be expected. Want something done on time and under budget? Have a small business owner or entrepreneur do it, dont leave it to the government.

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