The West Seneca Town Board concluded a held-over public hearing on its sidewalk snowplowing ordinance Monday night and found itself buried under a blizzard of conflicting opinions.
The board has been considering an ordinance that would require property owners to keep their sidewalks clear from snow.
But the main target of the ordinance is Union Road, where plows push so much snow off the road it's impossible to keep the sidewalks clean, some business owners said.
Charles M. Curtin Jr., of Curtin Funeral Home, said that about every other year, snow and ice thrown by plows on the New York State road (Route 277) break one of his larger windows. It happened again last year.
Curtin said that in an effort to keep his walks clean, he tried using a "flamethrower" that let loose a 3-foot-long, 6-inch wide blast of flame.
"It uses a propane tank and screams like a jet," Curtin said. "I could barely touch (the ice). I tried."
Homeowner Jim Bove questioned whether a resolution requiring homeowners to keep their sidewalks clear would make property owners more liable in the case of accidents. Town Attorney Tim Greenan said it would shift some liability to the owners.
"This could create more problems than it's worth," said Bove. "And it could create an enforcement nightmare. . . . Maybe people should be urged to use some common sense."
But members of VOICE, a faith-based community action group that contends it's too dangerous for town residents to walk on the road when sidewalks and walks over bridges are closed.
Jeannette Pettibone, speaking for a group of at least 50 members at the meeting, cited examples such as a store clerk who had her jacket sleeve ripped by a car passing too near when she was forced to walk in the street.
"Our church janitor has to walk from the bus stop at Southgate Plaza down Union Road to work," Pettibone said, "He's told us many times he's feared for his life."
Roger Harris, a resident of East & West Road, said the mirror of his vehicle struck a man who was walking in the street because the walks were closed last winter.
"Had those sidewalks been plowed, none of this would have been able to happen," Harris said.
West Seneca Supervisor Paul Clark suggested the town may be too big for it to be able to clear the walks, as some smaller villages do. And there are other factors, such as the town's inability to require the state to keep its paths clear -- such as over bridges.
Clark said he hopes the board will be able to come up with a resolution by the end of October.
"There are two very strong points of view, and they were well represented tonight," Clark said. "We have to do some more thinking and discussing . . . but we need to get to a resolution."