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Officials discuss raising penalties for snow-obstructed sidewalks

The sidewalk in front of Riverhead Centre had not been cleared of snow and ice as a week after the Feb. 9 blizzard. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead officials are again discussing lack of compliance with the town code requirements for snow clearing.

Route 58 is a primary focus of concern, town board members said at this morning’s work session. When the county expanded Route 58 to four lanes several years ago, it did not provide shoulders or turning lanes. County snow plows pile snow on the sidewalks in large heaps. Property owners in the past have complained that the snow deposited by plows creates a wall of ice that is difficult or impossible to remove. With sidewalks blocked by snow, pedestrians have no choice but to walk in the roadway.

“It’s a dangerous situation,” Councilman James Wooten said. Wooten said he sent letters to every property owner on Rt. 58 in November.

Town code enforcement officers issued more than 60 summonses for failing to clear sidewalks following the last snow storm, deputy town attorney Dawn Thomas said today.

“The problem is the maximum penalty is $250,” Thomas said. “It’s cheaper to pay the penalty than to get the snow removed.”

“We have to make the fees more than it’s going to cost them to get somenoe out there to clear the snow,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.

Board members are considering increasing the penalties for failure to clear sidewalks of snow and ice, as required by code. Thomas suggested creating tiers relating to the number of times a property owner has been charged with a violation, and increasing the maximum penalty to $2,500.

Board members said they were concerned about individual homeowners being subject to a stiffer penalty.

Any change will require a public hearing. It’s not clear whether the code can be amended in time to make a difference during the current winter season.

The sidewalk from Harrison Avenue along Route 58, near the high school. is completely obstructed. Photo: Peter Blasl
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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.