Sidewalk Complaints

Posted on: February 17, 2015 | Posted in: News

Snow complaints have been on the rise due to the recent weather and the new 311 mobile reporting app. Please read the following FAQs gathered by 2nd Ward City Commissioner, Ruth Kelly from the Engineering Department at the City of Grand Rapids to know just what is expected of you in your snow removal duties. We all want clear, safe sidewalks, so let’s remember not only to do our own part, but also help those Eastown neighbors who need a little extra help!

  • Is shoveling required to make a clear path?  Yes.

Please see the section of the ordinance below for reference.   Per the ordinance, property owners or residents are required to clear any accumulation of snow and ice from the sidewalks within 24 hours of the accumulation or placement of the snow.

  • Is shoveling required to the bare concrete? Yes

We do require all snow and ice to be removed from the sidewalks if we receive a complaint.  The ordinance states that any accumulation of snow and ice – we have tried in the past letting the property owners leave some packed snow but this has caused more confusion and frustration.  Often we will get warmer days and cooler nights which allow the snow pack to thaw then freeze again at night creating hazardous conditions.  Complainants call back and question why we were not enforcing the ordinance as written.  Walks with a buildup of snow or ice makes walking difficult for pedestrians with disabilities or who require mobility devises.

  • What are the expectations of width: do they have to be shoveled to the edges? Yes and No.

We tell residents that the walks have to be cleared edge to edge – however if there is 4feet of clearance the inspection will pass. Many residents only shovel or clear a path as wide as a shovel (18” wide). A sidewalk covered with a layer of snow and/or ice may not be a hindrance for a sure-footed individual, however it may present an obstacle for elderly citizens, people with a disability or those who rely on a mobility device. Anything under 4feet wide does not allow for enough clearance for wheelchairs or scooters and will not pass inspection.

  • Does the city go out and cite for non compliance?

The City does not systematically inspect and only responds to complaints. We currently are notifying residents by letter and allowing 7 days from the date the letter is sent to re-inspection. This usually allows for 2-3 days for mail and 2 days to clear the walks. There are two additional days allowed for postal delays.

  1. Once an inspection is completed, if the walks are cleared the case is closed and no fees will be assessed.
  2. If the walks are cleared but there are small areas that need attention we will give owner an second notice giving them another 24 hours.
  3. If the walks have not been cleared – the inspector will post a notice of noncompliance, also referred to as a “Force Plow” Notice.
  4. Usually within a day of posting the notice the walks will be cleared by the 61st District Courts.
  • Can the City go out and cite for non compliance? (Landlords and residents were not happy when they got a letter but the neighboring houses did not)

We only respond to complaints. We do not systematically inspect. Our office only has two inspectors – it would require a much larger staff to inspect systematically.

  • How long do people have to respond to the complaint if it snows again?

People have 24 hours after any new snow fall to bring their walks into compliance.  Typically we will postpone clearing until 24 hours after a snow fall.

  • Are there city employees or court workers coming out to shovel when a complaint isn’t taken care of or both?

The 61st District Court clear all properties.They charge $25 for every quarter hour they are on site. The City charges a $95 administrative fee plus any costs from the courts. If the walks are clear when the court workers show up the property owner will not receive any fee.

  • Do residents have the same amount of time when they get a letter versus and email from the city to get into compliance and is it reasonable?

Our inspections are triggered by the letter. Not all property owners receive the emails, our office is not aware of who receives the emails. The emails are a courtesy but we use the letter and 7 days from the date of the letter to inspect for compliance.


Ordinance: Chapter 52 Sidewalks – Sec. 4.89. Sidewalks to Be Cleared.

(1) The occupant or occupants of every property within the City, or the owner or owners of the property, shall clear any accumulation of ice or snow from the public sidewalks adjoining such property within twenty-four (24) hours of the accumulation or placement of snow or ice on said sidewalks.

(2) If the occupant or occupants or the owner or owners fail to remove said ice and snow from said sidewalks within forty-eight (48) hours of being notified by the City of such violation, the City may cause such ice and snow to be removed.

(3) In any action to enforce the provisions of subsection (2) of this Section, the City shall be required to show that the occupant or occupants, or owner of owners, were given notice of the requirement of this Section by anyone (1) of the following means: in person, by telephone, by mail, or by written notice left at the property. If notice is by mail it shall be deemed received two (2) mail delivery days after deposit in the United States Mail.

(4) If the City shall cause the removal of any snow and/or ice pursuant to the provisions of subsection (2) of this Section, the cost of said removal plus an administrative fee shall be assessed against the occupant(s) or owner(s) of the property. Such administrative fee shall be established from time to time by the City Manager pursuant to the authority granted under Section 4.90 (4). The cost of snow and/or ice removal shall be determined based upon the bids received for said removal by the City. All costs and fees assessed pursuant to this subsection shall be a personal debt owed to the City by the occupants(s) or owner(s) of the property and may be assessed as a lien against the property until paid.