Who's responsible for shoveling snow?

Lone Tree does not require single-family detached homes to shovel their sidewalks

Posted 4/2/19

When snow hits Lone Tree, responsibility for clearing the sidewalks is a gray area. All residents or property managers are required to remove snow from adjacent sidewalks, except for owners of …

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Who's responsible for shoveling snow?

Lone Tree does not require single-family detached homes to shovel their sidewalks

Posted

When snow hits Lone Tree, responsibility for clearing the sidewalks is a gray area.

All residents or property managers are required to remove snow from adjacent sidewalks, except for owners of single-family detached homes, according to a city ordinance.

Janice Sanderson, of the Prominence Point neighborhood in west Lone Tree, said year after year, some neighbors of hers never shovel the sidewalk. Sanderson said she once slipped on some ice and nearly hit her head while walking her dog one day in Prominence Point, a neighborhood of about 50 single-family detached homes.

“Coming here, I expected everybody to shovel their walks, but I guess not. To me, it's a no-brainer,” Sanderson said. “Right now, there's no way to enforce it. There's no law… it makes no sense to me.”

Single-family detached homes are exempt from the city ordinance requiring residents to maintain the landscaping and sidewalks in front of their properties. Most of those homes are represented by a homeowners association with specific standards for property maintenance. Some HOAs, however, do not have a specific ordinance requiring snow maintenance of sidewalks. And many Lone Tree HOAs are part of larger property management groups based in places like Aurora, Englewood and Denver.

Silvia Gregory, business manager for Westwind Management, a property management group that represents three Lone Tree neighborhoods, said each community in Lone Tree is different and they have different ways of dealing with property responsibilities, such as snow removal.

“Some communities do not have sidewalks at all in front of their homes, and therefore are not affected by this concern," Gregory said. "Some associations, under the specific authority of the board of directors, request their management agent send courtesy letters asking homeowners to remove snow from the sidewalks in consideration of their neighbors. Ultimately, unless there are requirements for snow removal on homeowner sidewalks set forth by a city, county or municipality, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer as to whether it should be enforced by the HOAs.”

All other residences in Lone Tree — town homes, condos and apartment complexes — are required to follow the city ordinance that “sidewalks and landscaping in the public right-of-way … are the responsibility of the adjoining property owner or managing entity.”

Many municipalities have a citywide mandate for property maintenance. In other parts of Douglas County, Parker, Castle Rock and Castle Pines have ordinances requiring residents to remove snow from sidewalks in front of or adjacent to their homes with no exceptions. Nearby Centennial only requires commercial property owners to remove snow in front of their properties. Many residents in those communities also live under HOAs.

Douglas County has a countywide mandate for maintaining properties for all unincorporated parts. Residents of Acres Green, for example, an unincorporated neighborhood almost completely surrounded by Lone Tree, are required to remove snow from their property, while their Lone Tree neighbors are not.

Lone Tree Public Works Director Justin Schmitz said the city omits single-family detached homes from the ordinance because residents, for the most part, have voluntarily cleared their sidewalks in the past.

“There really hasn't been a documented history of issues or concerns from residents of voluntarily removing snow from the sidewalk,” Schmitz said. “People aren't worried about the enforcement side of things. They're doing this as part of their neighborly duty.”

The city offers to help residents who are unable to shovel their sidewalks due to a physical disability, part of the “Snow Buddy” program. Denisse Coffman, spokeswoman for the city, said residents know to reach out to the public works department if they ever need help removing snow from their sidewalks, and the city is always willing to assist those who need help.

“For (city) council, it's far more important to be proactive in educating residents,” Coffman said, on behalf of Mayor Jackie Millet and city council. “We find it more important to invest in our current resources, where we're reaching out to our residents as opposed to policing.”

The city stated complaints on snow removal are few and far between. There would be a cost to including single-family detached homes to the ordinance, Schmitz said, though it is unknown how much. The city has no plans to change the ordinance.

Sanderson feels it sets an unfair precedent for residents of these homes and allows some neighbors to be consistently complacent with shoveling.

“To me," Sanderson said, "it's a public-safety issue."

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