ST. ALBANS — Ross Arsenault owns one of the city’s longest running stores, and for much of the time he’s owned it he and the city have battled over snow removal.
Arsenault maintains that he is both obligated by city ordinances to clear the sidewalks around his business and that doing so is essential to the success of his business.
“This is about me as a business owner giving my customers an easily accessible way into my store,” said Arsenault.
City officials have concerns about Arsenault piling snow at the corner of Spruce and Lake streets. According to Director of Public Works Allen Robtoy, the piles can get as high as 20 feet.
At a St. Albans City Development Review Board (DRB) hearing held earlier this month regarding a proposed addition of a new bottle return center at Arsenault’s Beverage Mart concerns about who clears the snow from the site and where it is stored were raised once again.
Speaking on behalf of the city, Director of Planning and Development Chip Sawyer said that with the city’s improved sidewalk clearing capacity it was no longer necessary for Arsenault to clear the sidewalks in front of his property.
Arsenault disagrees, pointing to the condition of the sidewalks on Lake and Spruce streets and contrasting them with the clear sidewalk in front of his building. Those sidewalks, like most of the city’s sidewalks, were still showing evidence of the pre-Christmas ice storm on Jan. 10.
“My customers deserve better than the city can give them,” said Arsenault. “They (city crews) can’t be everywhere at once,” he added, noting that the city has only two sidewalk plows. The city has roughly 50 miles of sidewalk.
He also needs to have the area clear for early morning deliveries, Arsenault said.
“I make it a hazard on the corner, because then they’ve got to pick it up,” Arsenault said of the piles at Lake and Spruce. “We don’t push the snow in the road. We push it to the curb. We pile it for them.”
Robtoy said he told Cross Consulting Engineers, the firm designing the new bottle return, that he doesn’t object to Arsenault clearing the sidewalks, as long as the snow is not stored on the sidewalk and piled on the corner.
“He wants a nice, clear sidewalk and I understand that,” said Robtoy.
Robtoy is willing to send city trucks to pick up the snow as long as it isn’t piled on the sidewalk. “I’m more than happy to try and accommodate it,” he said. He is even willing to sign a written agreement with Arsenault to that effect.
City ordinances do require property owners within the business district to “remove all snow, ice, dirt and debris from any public sidewalks abutting their property.” The ordinance also states: “The snow and ice may be moved to the curb area for pick up by the city, otherwise, it will be removed from the sidewalk by the property owner.”
“I keep 300 feet of Lake Street free and clear of ice at no charge to them,” Arsenault said.
“I really appreciate that, and I told him that a number of times,” said Robtoy.
Concerns also were expressed at the DRB hearing about snow being stored near Stevens Brook. Because the snow was plowed from parking lots and sidewalks, it may contain contaminants, in the view of Alderman Chad Spooner, Ward 6, and at least one member of the DRB.
Arsenault pointed out that multiple businesses and even some non-profits in the city store snow near Stevens Brook. The city itself stores snow near the brook at the city garage, Arsenault said, showing a photo of the snow piles there.
“I get what they’re trying to do, but they need to treat everybody the same,” said Arsenault.
Asked about debris from his Hoss’s Dogg House that can blow into Stevens Brook, he acknowledged that it happens. “Does stuff end up in the gas (Stevens) brook? Absolutely,” he said.
However, he said another local business that has tires piled near the brook. “What would you rather have, a biodegradable napkin or a tire in that brook?” he asked.
Currently, customers of the Beverage Mart can park on Arsenault’s property from Spruce Street, but there is no clear curb cut and customers drive back and forth across the sidewalk. It was suggested at the DRB hearing that there should be a clearer delineation of the sidewalk to try and improve pedestrian safety.
Asked about safety there, Arsenault said cars drive across sidewalks all over the city to enter driveways and parking lots.
The Beverage Mart employs just over 30 people in the winter months and an additional ten during the summer.