City forgives: Charlottesville delays sidewalk enforcement
"Wouldn't it be great," says pedestrian advocate Kevin Cox, "if people could say, 'I got to work because the sidewalks are clear and the buses are running."
Alas, what's bad for Cox is good news for those who got a pass from the Charlottesville ordinance that normally punishes those who haven't cleared the sidewalks along their property.
The list of apparent no-shovelers included such notables as film director and homeless center creator Tom Shadyac, Albemarle Administrator Bob Tucker, whose County Office Building sidewalks were strewn with snow, City Public Works Director Judy Mueller, who oversees the snow-blocked city streets and medians, and even the artists of McGuffey Art Center–- originally lauded online but who left their Market Street sidewalk untouched.
And that's just what was obvious Tuesday, December 22 on a jaunt from the Downtown Mall to Bodo's Bagel Bakery, which also seems to belong on the list.
City code requires all property owners to shovel adjoining sidewalks by noon after a snowfall, and Cox–- well-known for his own multi-mile by-foot commute between the Woolen Mills and the UVA Medical Center–- finds it ironic that the law has been officially forgiven, despite near-constant sunshine and above-freezing temperatures since the flakes quit falling.
"There's no excuse," says Cox. "The weather has been perfect for shoveling snow."
Moreover, Cox says, citizens need pedestrianism now more than ever, especially as the City–- which normally operates 16 transit routes–- has tacitly admitted that it failed to clear it own streets by curtailing bus service as late as Tuesday to just two routes: the Free Trolley, which plys a short route between out-of-session UVA and the #7 bus to Fashion Square mall.
"Why can't more of them travel?" asks Cox. "This is the time to make sure that the alternatives exist."
City spokesperson Ric Barrick replies that the trolley and Route 7 combine to carry about two-thirds of all transit capacity. (As of Wednesday, December 23, bus Route 8 was added.)
Bodo's manager Scott Smith expressed regret that something he normally gets accomplished got pushed back in the turmoil. That's also Albemarle County's excuse.
"Basically, we've been sequencing the snow removal, says spokeswoman Lee Catlin. "All weekend, we were working to keep fire and police headquarters open on 5th Street."
A crew has begun working at the County Office Building at McIntire and Preston, says Catlin. "We expect it to be clear today," she says Tuesday afternoon. (Indeed, it got cleared before 8am Wednesday.)
As for McGuffey, artist Cynthia Burke says the artists did a little shoveling but notes, "The City is still in charge of the grounds."
The City's Barrick announced via press release that Charlottesville would start enforcing the sidewalk-clearing ordinance at noon on Wednesday, December 23. But he told a reporter that City action would come as warnings, not warrants.
Cox says he's tired of excuses.
"Hey, I know it was two feet of snow," says Cox. "I shoveled two feet of snow."
On January 5, Cox says, "Many major sidewalks and curb ramps in town are still blocked by large piles of snow put there by snowplows." He beseeches the city to enforce the ordinance, 18 days after the snowstorm.
The number of sidewalk scofflaws who have been fined: zero, according to public works director Judith Mueller, who told City Council January 4 that the city did issue warnings.
Cox added that he hopes Charlottesville will denote snow emergency routes–- such as Main, Emmet, and Market Streets; Barracks Road; and Preston and Cherry Avenues–- thoroughfares important enough that City keeps their sidewalks open.
"On a dead-end cul-de-sac with 12 houses," says Cox, "it doesn't matter. But if they had snow emergency routes, people could walk to work or to Reid's [supermarket] to get groceries."
"I think that makes a lot of sense," says Mayor Dave Norris. "I think that's an excellent suggestion."
–story updated at 1:24pm Wednesday with response from Barrick, new idea from Cox, and confirmation that the County finally cleared its sidewalks –story updated again at 2:38pm Sunday, December 27 with response from mayor
–updated Sunday, January 3 with minor clarifying details
–updated Tuesday, January 5