LEXINGTON, Va. – Sixteen-year-old Chase Lowney spent his Friday afternoon shoveling. And not because it’s not one of his chores.
When the Lexington high schooler went to check on his elderly neighbors, he saw a notice on their door from the city saying if they didn’t clear their sidewalks on Friday, they’d be charged with a misdemeanor.
“So I brought over a shovel and my dad and we started clearing it for them,” said Lowney.
With snow and ice lingering on sidewalks from the last winter storm, City of Lexington leaders took action ahead of Friday’s storm. If neighbors didn’t clear the sidewalks near their homes by 5 p.m., they would be in violation of city code.
City Manager James Halasz said they could face a Class 1 Misdemeanor charge, punishable with a fine of up to $2,500 or up to a year in jail.
“I think people were somewhat understanding the first few days that the snow was not cleared, but after a week, after 10 days, people are genuinely concerned for their safety or the safety of others,” said Halasz.
City leaders said they’ve gotten a dozen complaints from folks about sidewalks not being cleared. Some residents said they slipped and fell in the street and first responders even had to help rescue a dog that had slipped into a ravine. City officials said if you’re willing to take on the responsibility of owning a home, clearing your sidewalk comes with the territory.
“Oh the joys of homeownership,” said Lexington Mayor Frank Friedman. “This is one that comes along with owning a home in the City of Lexington.”
Chase’s dad, Charles, said he understands why the city needs to press the issue but thinks the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
“To put the burden on people like this elderly couple here, it’s a little bit excessive,” said Lowden.
Depending on when this storm ends, police plan to go door to door Friday night and Saturday morning to check if sidewalks are cleared. If not, homeowners and property owners will be issued a summons to appear before a judge.
Halasz said the goal isn’t to put people in jail, adding that police and city officials will be understanding. Instead, their main concern is safety.
“We’re going to give people ample opportunity to do what we hope they will do and just be responsible for the community,” he said. “It’s not the city insisting that we want to enforce the code. It’s us saying we want to keep our community and individuals here safe.”