District of North Van eyes mandatory snow shovelling

District of North Vancouver residents may soon be joining their fellow Canadians in learning the proper technique for wielding a snow shovel.

District council voted unanimously Monday night on a motion from Coun. Jordan Back to explore mandatory snow clearing from residential sidewalks.

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The owners of businesses and multi-family properties in the District of North Vancouver are required to keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice within 24 hours, but the district is the only municipality in the Lower Mainland that exempts single-family homeowners.

Richmond, New Westminster, Surrey, Vancouver and Burnaby require residents to clear their snow and ice by 10 a.m. Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and the City of North Vancouver give their residents 24 hours.

In addition to mandatory shovelling, Back’s motion also calls for staff to report on speeding up the clearing of show from commercial sidewalks and bike lanes, and investigating the creation of a Snow Angels program to match volunteers with people in need of some help when the skiff hits the fan.

“For me, it's about making conditions consistently safer for all residents in our community when we have a heavy snow and ice event, regardless of how they travel about the community,” Back said. “My intent is not to put any kind of additional burden on homeowners as I realize not every homeowner is physically able to get out and clear the snow and ice on their sidewalk. And that's why I've coupled it with the creation of a Snow Angels type program.”

Coun. Megan Curren supported the motion, noting it was especially important for people with mobility challenges.

“It's more than an inconvenience. It can actually prevent access to an important appointment or something,” she said.

Coun Mathew Bond said he has struggled to get his kids around in a stroller on snowy, icy sidewalks and added he’d like see the district offer the same consideration to people on foot as it does for drivers.

“I think a similar approach that makes all of our infrastructure more safe, and more accessible, is prudent,” he said,

Coun. Jim Hanson supported the motion and noted, with climate change, we can expect bigger dumps of snow that stick around longer.

“Snow clearing is an important part of creating livability and enables transportation,” he said.

While introducing a Snow Angels program was warmly received, the notion of fines for snowy scofflaws got chillier reception from some members of council.

“If staff is going to come back with a report that suggests some sort of ticketing based on not clearing (snow), I won't be supporting ticketing,” said Coun. Lisa Muri, adding that the tickets likely wouldn’t be enforced in court.

Coun. Betty Forbes said she too wouldn’t support fines.

Mayor Mike Little said he also empathized with district residents who find themselves unprepared when a rare blizzard blows in.

“People won't necessarily have the same kind of snow removal equipment that you get in Hamilton where everybody's got that Canadian Tire snow chucker that can get rid of large amounts of it,” he said. “I think that there's going to have to be a recognition in the community that you can't always travel everywhere all the time.”

If the Snow Angels project gets off the ground, the municipality likely already has its first recruit. Devina Briggs Hammoud 16, told council she was disappointed to learn, one snowy day, that there was no such program in the district.

“Amidst this pandemic, it's easy to feel more disconnected from the community,” she said. “I am optimistic that Snow Angels could serve as a catalyst to aid our community in feeling more unified right now.”

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