Who’s in Charge of the Sidewalks?

While municipalities are responsible for the streets after a snow storm, residents and property owners are in charge of the sidewalks, leaving some challenges for those who walk.

Who’s in Charge of the Sidewalks?
A look at snow covered sidewalks in southwest Connecticut in February 2024. (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

Public works crews across southwest Connecticut have been busy over the past few weeks after multiple storms brought plowable snow to the region. Some communities received more snow in the past two weeks than they had all of last year.

While it’s very clear that municipalities are in charge of clearing local roads, there are many sidewalks where it’s harder to know who is responsible for shoveling.

According to multiple town and city ordinances, property owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalks in front of their houses and businesses. While many residents clear their sidewalks soon after, others either don’t or can’t, leaving those who walk facing challenges getting around. 

“Some reasonable effort must be made especially in the high pedestrian usage areas such as around schools and in the commercial business districts, to make the sidewalks passable,” Darien officials wrote in a statement. “People walking in the street, especially around parked cars and mounds of snow which might hamper driver visibility, is very dangerous.”

Local Rules

While all municipalities in the region require that property owners take responsibility for clearing their sidewalks, the time and fines for non-compliance varies.

In Stamford, property owners are required to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks “within 12 hours after a storm has ended.”

“This is to ensure the safety of pedestrians, especially school children who walk to school or their bus stop,” the city wrote in a statement.

Those who do not comply can be fined $90 per day.

In Norwalk, “property owners are responsible for keeping all sidewalks along their property clear of snow and ice. The City clears only sidewalks that are not abutted by private property.” Ice needs to be removed within six hours of forming and snow needs to be removed within 12 hours. Property owners who do not comply can face $50 per day in fines.

The city said in a statement that its Public Works crews try to clear some “sidewalk areas including those around schools, public buildings, parks and high volume bus stops.”

In Greenwich, snow and ice is required to be removed no later than 18 hours after it’s fallen. Property owners who fail to comply can be fined $25. They also can be required to “reimburse the town for the expense of the removal,” if town officials have to come clear it.

In Fairfield, property owners have 24 hours to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks. The town noted that “heavily used sidewalks near schools and public buildings and the commercial building are particularly important.”

The town ordinance states that property owners can be fined a maximum of $99 for each offense of not complying.

In Westport, town ordinance states that business owners are required to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks within 24 hours,

In Darien, property owners are required to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks within 24 hours, or face a $90 fine per day. 

“As always, we try to take a reasonable and common sense approach to enforcing this ordinance,” the town wrote in a statement. “Town officials are looking first and foremost for voluntary compliance from property owners simply to ensure the safety of all pedestrians.”

What Can You Do?

If you’re a property owner, make sure your sidewalks are clean, since they are the property owners’ responsibility. If you encounter sidewalks that haven’t been cleaned in a timely fashion and are causing dangerous conditions, many municipalities have apps or ways of contacting  officials where you can submit photos and information to let the community know about the problem.