Snow-clearing costs irk company

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

(Postmedia file photo)

(Postmedia file photo)


A Norfolk businessman has lodged a complaint after a lengthy stretch of sidewalk materialized this summer in front of his property.

Mike Fredericks of Simcoe, president of Annex Publishing & Printing, told Norfolk County in a recent letter that it will cost him as much as $3,000 to keep the new sidewalk free of snow this winter.

Fredericks is especially unhappy because he feels the county went out of its way to stick him with the cost of snow removal.

Fredericks owns the Annex Publishing building at 105 Donly Drive South, a vacant lot immediately south of Annex, and a third property on Donly Drive South at Victoria Street.

Fredericks was out of the country when a letter arrived this summer giving Annex three days notice that the sidewalk was about to be built.

Norfolk installed the sidewalk in the industrial park to accommodate foot traffic from the Zitia subdivision south of Oakwood Cemetery.

Fredericks doesn’t disagree with sidewalks. However, he says the county could just as easily have installed it on the west side of Donly Drive South adjacent to Oakwood Cemetery.

Had Norfolk done so, clearing snow would have been the county’s responsibility.

Fredericks notes that Norfolk County already clears snow on the Victoria Street sidewalk adjoining Oakwood Cemetery. It would require little time and expense, he says, for the county plow to continue south onto this new sidewalk were it on the west side of the street.

Fredericks says the county’s planning is puzzling because vehicles will enter and exit Annex Publishing several hundred times a day during the work week. This raises safety concerns, he said, because there is no traffic supervision in this part of Simcoe.

Had the sidewalk been located on the west side of Donly, Fredericks said the hazard to pedestrian traffic would have been greatly reduced.

“Your planning department could have placed this sidewalk on the west side adjacent to your cemetery lands and the near-vacant Boswell plant instead,” Fredericks writes.

“This would have significantly reduced the risk to ``sidewalk walkers’ and placed the burden of maintenance with the county, where it belongs.”

Fredericks said the snow-clearing cost is hard to take given that the sidewalk was installed for the benefit of the new subdivision.

Norfolk, he says, was happy to collect development charges from the project but then serves a private enterprise with snow-clearing costs when there was no need to do so.

“You collected their building fees and now their taxes and you have put us in a position that suggests we should take care of maintaining your property,” he says. “This seems very unfair.

“We are always happy to support our community in every fashion we can but find this new `tax’ unacceptable.”

Fredericks’ letter was discussed this week at Norfolk council. In an interview, Mayor Charlie Luke said the short notice arose because the sidewalk contractor was ready to work but the installation he was scheduled to perform fell through. The county substituted Donly Drive South in its place.

Luke sympathizes with property owners who resent having to shovel snow from county sidewalks. He added, however, that the cost would be prohibitive were this a municipal responsibility.

Several years ago, Norfolk staff estimated that clearing snow from every sidewalk would add at least $750,000 to the county’s winter-control budget.

“That’s a full percentage point on the levy,” Luke said. “I don’t know how you justify imposing that cost on people in the countryside who don’t benefit from this service.”

Norfolk assumes some responsibility for clearing sidewalks.

Norfolk will clear sidewalks where they are adjacent to a four-lane highway, in front of retaining walls, adjacent to rear property lines, adjacent to municipal property, on bridges, at signalized intersections in the urban zone, and wherever else the county deems necessary.