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No bylaw change to allow ATV snow clearing

St. Albert will not rewrite its bylaw to allow the use of ATVs for snow clearing but will consider the creation of a “snow angel” program that could include special permits for ATV users.

St. Albert will not rewrite its bylaw to allow the use of ATVs for snow clearing but will consider the creation of a “snow angel” program that could include special permits for ATV users.

Council decided against changing the bylaw that prohibits ATV use in the city after a controversy this winter prompted a review. Local chiropractor Jon Cooper complained about being issued a ticket after using his four-wheeled ATV to clear snow.

City administration considered how the bylaw could be rewritten to allow ATVs but said the use of quad plows on public property “creates significant risk” to infrastructure like fire hydrants, water service valves, trees, utility boxes and manhole covers.

Uneven sidewalks also pose a risk of injury or infrastructure damage, states an administrative report.

There was no appetite on council to override administration’s position, but Coun. Cathy Heron wants the city to pursue a “snow angel” program similar to those run by Edmonton and Calgary.

These programs typically involve a marketing campaign encouraging residents to be good neighbours by helping clear snow. Heron’s notice of motion means the issue will come to council for debate at a future meeting.

She said her intent is to investigate whether the city could offer training and special permits for ATV users who want to clear snow in their neighbourhoods. Such a program would include strict conditions around where users could plow, how fast they could go and how much snow needs to fall to trigger the permits, Heron said.

“If it’s controlled, it can probably work,” she said.

Such an endeavour would happen once a year, in the fall before the snow flies, Heron said.

“It doesn’t work if you’re going to apply for a permit and expect to get out there later on that afternoon and plow,” she said.

Her idea could co-exist with the current bylaw, which already allows the city’s engineering department to issue special permits to operate off-highway vehicles in the city. These permits are typically issued for parades or landscaping projects.

Council considered whether the city should simply advertise that these special permits are available for snow removal. The idea failed in a 3-3 vote, with one councillor absent.

Issuing these permits for snow removal would take several days because the department would have to assess each location and ensure that no city infrastructure was at risk of being damaged, said Guy Boston, the city’s general manager of planning and engineering.

Councillors were mixed in their views of ATVs on sidewalks. Coun. Cam MacKay felt the city needs to be more flexible and eliminate a double standard that currently exists.

“We’re allowing our employees to plow down there with the equivalent of a Sherman [Tank] and we won’t let some resident who’s trying to do a good thing … to clear a sidewalk … with an off-highway vehicle,” he said.

Coun. Wes Brodhead doesn’t endorse allowing ATVs onto sidewalks under any circumstances.

“The use of off-highway vehicles for snow removal on city sidewalks will never get my vote, no matter what sort of program is involved,” he said. “I just don’t see, if you legitimize the use of ATVs on the sidewalks, how you control it.”

Under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, it’s already illegal to use off-highway vehicles on city streets and sidewalks unless a bylaw grants permission.

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