City: Clear snow within 8 hours or face fine

Warwick, Cranston give property owners 24 hours before fine

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office is reminding city residents and businesses that they could get in trouble if they fail to clean up their property quickly after the storm ends.

A city ordinance that dates back to 1914 says property owners must shovel snow and clear ice from their sidewalks within eight hours of the final snowfall, or else face a fine of $25 to $500.

“Property owners are required to remove snow and ice from sidewalks, catch basins, fire hydrants and pedestrian ramps adjacent to their property,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “Residents are asked to take care not to shovel snow onto roadways after streets have been plowed.”

The ordinance specifically says property owners must “remove or cause to be removed” all snow from “a path not less than three (3) feet in width of the entire border in or on said street, highway, or public place,” from “around any fire hydrant on the sidewalk in front of said building or lot,” from “the opening of any catch basin in the sidewalk of said building or lot, and from “pedestrian-access ramps cut into street curbs bordering said building or lot.”

The ordinance covers all “owners, occupants or persons, having care of any building or lot bordering upon any street, highway or public place within the city.”

Both the police and the Providence Department of Public Works are allowed to enforce the snow-removal ordinance. If a property owner fails to pay the fine within 30 days, the city says it will put a special lien on the property, which can only be removed by paying both the original fine and a special $100 administrative penalty.

Residents have 10 days to appeal a snow fine to Providence Municipal Court.

The ordinance has actually gotten more lenient over the years: Providence property owners could originally have faced a fine if they didn’t clear snow and ice within four hours, according to a 1916 edition of Municipal Journal. City officials have faced criticism over the years for failing to enforce the rule, however.

Similar ordinances are in place in other local cities.

In Warwick, property owners have 24 hours to remove snow and 12 hours to treat ice before facing a fine of $100. In Cranston, property owners also have 24 hours to clear snow and three hours to treat ice before facing fines of $20 for a residential property and $250 for a business property.

Unlike the other two cities, though, Cranston has an exception for property owners who are ages 55 and older or physically disabled – but only “if said owner or occupant provides the police officer with a letter from his or her doctor attesting to the fact that the person is physically unable to shovel snow.”

Rhode Island state law gives municipal legislative bodies the power “to establish and regulate sidewalks.”

Snow isn’t the only possible sidewalk problem Providence has legislated about: the city code also says residents cannot “place, throw, pour or spatter, or cause to be placed, thrown, poured or spattered, any water upon any sidewalk in the city between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.”

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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