Monday, September 27, 2010

New law in NJ town requires snow removal from accessible parking spaces


Owners of commercial premises in West Milford, N.J., will be mandated to clear parking spaces reserved for "handicapped drivers" of snow and ice as spelled out in a new ordinance planned for adoption by the Township Council.

Although persons with special needs are no longer referred to as "handicapped" West Milford ordinances continue to use that term. ADA member Janice Sangle pointed out at the Sept. 14 ADA meeting that the term generally used today is "accessible parking." She said that term usually appears elsewhere but "handicapped parking" still appears on signs in West Milford.

The Council on Sept. 15 introduced the ordinance amendment and scheduled a public hearing on it on Oct. 20 before they vote for final passage of the new law.

Law already requires the owner of commercial premises abutting or bordering any street in the township remove all snow and ice from the abutting sidewalks there or in case of ice that is frozen as to make removal impractical they must cover the sidewalk with sand or deicing material. This all must be done within 12 hours after the conclusion of a storm.

Throwing, placing or depositing snow or ice on any street by any property owner continues to carry legal penalties.

Care of "handicapped parking spaces will be mandated with passage of the amended ordinance. The ordinance addition says that no person, firm, corporation or partnership or the owner, tenant, lessee or occupant of any premises having parking spaces reserved for "handicapped drivers."

It mandates that any contractor employed for the removal of snow and ice not block access to parking spaces reserved for drivers with special needs by plowing, piling or placement of snow and ice in the reserved spaces.

New enforcement provisions say that any township resident, all members of the police department, all special officers, all members of the Department of Public Works and the zoning officer are all authorized to file complaints for violations and "shall be considered the enforcement official."

Investigation and enforcement, according to the amendment, will normally occur after the storm event. Complaints must be issues within 30 days of the violation.

Any commercial owner failing to remove ice and snow from the sidewalks in accord with the amended law, the township enforcement official or other official who may have been designated by township employees or contractors, the cost and expense incurred or cost paid for the removal will be certified by the enforcement official and submitted to the Township Council and then certified to the tax collector.

A lien will be placed on the premises as of the date certified by the township council and added to, recorded and collected in the same manner as real estate taxes are assessed and levied on the premises. Cost and expense of removal of the ice and snow will be separate and distinct from any fines and court costs which may be imposed and collected by law.

The regulations will not be applicable when the National Weather Service, Governor or Mayor has declared a snow emergency throughout the township.

The snow removal and ice control issues at commercial establishments was brought to the attention of the governing body by the West Milford ADA committee. A letter from Kathy Shanahan, committee chair, in March told the Township Council that the existing ordinance did not designate an enforcement officer and did not address every area that needs proper snow removal. The amendment proposal resulted from the concern.

Shanahan’s letter said the committee wanted the governing body to address the issues "so that people with disabilities would have equal access to these areas without any undue hardship.

The ADA committee asked that the issue be resolved before the 2010-11 winter months and with adoption of the ordinance next month this will be accomplished.