Great PR for Sturbridge. We cause our own problems.
I want to put some things out there that haven't been addressed in depth before, and some that haven't been addressed at all.
The original bylaw was to force property owners to clear the sidewalks in front of their property of ice and snow. The reason was a cost savings initiative by the town. I never heard exactly how much money was to be saved, but since the town had the equipment already, and would be clearing some of the sidewalks, I imagine it wouldn't be that much savings at all.
I believe the town has gone about this entirely in the wrong way, and may have opened itself up to an enormous liability.
Like clearing the roadways for vehicular traffic, clearing the sidewalks for pedestrian traffic is a matter of safety. Safety for those using the roads and sidewalks. If the town only plowed the roads in front of town property and left the roadway in front of private property it would not be the smartest thing to do for obvious reasons. Same with sidewalks.
Now, I realize that the laws regarding snow removal for the roads are a bit different than those for sidewalks, but I hope you get the bigger point. If the town takes a DPW employee, and instructs that employee to clear a length of sidewalk in front of town owned land, such as from New Boston Road extension on Route 131 to the property line with a private landowner, and at that point they stop clearing snow from the sidewalk, what then? Are they hoping the private landowner is going to do a meet 'n greet at the property line and the landowner will clear the rest of the sidewalk so the entire sidewalk will then be cleared for foot travel?
Is the town really thinking that this is going to happen? Look around town. I hasn't happened, and the snow will stay on the sidewalks until it has melted naturally, sometime in May. What has happened is the town has cleared what they see as their sidewalks, when in fact it is all their sidewalk since the proximity to property does not make one its owner, otherwise I'd own 300 feet of Rout 148 and start charging a toll.
Now, let's take it to the next step.
Imagine a pedestrian is pushing a stroller along the cleared town sidewalk on their way to the library. Halfway to their destination the sidewalk is blocked with unshoveled snow. The private landowner has not cleared their portion of the sidewalk. Yes, they could be fined by the town, but that won't clear the way now. The pedestrian still must get to the library, and the town, through their inaction in not clearing the entire sidewalk, and assuming that a bylaw will insure a persons safety, has actually set up a dangerous situation.
The pedestrian has no clues as to why the sidewalk is not totally cleared, they may be from out of town. All they know is that they must get to the library, and that means taking the the stroller from the safety of the sidewalk, and on to the roadway. They begin walking on the side of the road, parallel to the unplowed sidewalks, only inches away from the passing vehicular traffic. After a bit, they come to cleared sidewalk in front of town owned land, and if they are lucky, they will make it there.
What the town has done by initiating the clearing of the sidewalk it has stated though that action that the sidewalk has been cleared of snow, and is fine for pedestrian traffic. This is a "safe assumption" just like placing a door in the wall of a building is a safe assumption that it is to be used for coming and going. The cleared sidewalk at no time gives any indication that has not been completely cleared. Thus, it actually "leads" the pedestrian along it until it stops. That incomplete clearing, that abrupt stopping of pedestrian traffic can only result in one of two actions.
- Turning around, and attempting to reach the library in the spring when the snow melts, or
- Continuing on toward the library along the side of the road.