Portions of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Maple Road are officially part of a new sidewalk snowplow taxing district in Amherst.
On Friday, the Town Board unanimously approved a "Sidewalk Snow Relief District" that in wintertime will keep property owners' snow-clogged sidewalks clear in exchange for an annual fee of up to one dollar per linear foot.
"This is really a good first step for solving a long-term problem in the town," said Supervisor Barry Weinstein.
The exact amount individual property owners in this new taxing district would pay will not be determined until the board accepts contractor bids for the sidewalk plowing work, which is not expected until late summer or early fall.
"Creating the special district does not set a price for any property owners until several steps take place," said Council Member Guy Marlette, who headed up the snow relief district effort.
Amherst is the only town in the region to approve such a district even though the winter problem of street debris making sidewalks impassible along major roads is fairly common.
The board had been considering creating five snowplow zones that would cover certain stretches of Kenmore Avenue, Niagara Falls Boulevard, Eggert Road, Maple Road, Harlem Road and Sheridan Drive. But after extensive public feedback, the board dropped Eggert Road, Sheridan Drive and Harlem Road from consideration.
The two areas are part of the new snow relief district are:
The east side of Niagara Falls Boulevard from Kenmore to Betina avenues.
Maple Road from the Millersport exit ramp to Transit Road.
The question of sidewalk snowplowing districts has come up in Amherst repeatedly over the years, especially after three teenagers were struck and killed on Niagara Falls Boulevard in 2001 while walking in the street because sidewalks were impassible.
But the idea of creating a new layer of taxation for some residents in exchange for greater public safety has been controversial, particularly among those who have been most conscientious about clearing their own walkways.
"We're creating a class of NIMFYs -- Not In My Front Yard," said Council Member Mark Manna. "They all think it's a great idea, but nobody wants to pay for it."
While both the Niagara Falls Boulevard and Maple Road service zones still had property owners opposed to snowplow districts, more than 50 percent said they supported the creation of the new district.
Weinstein said he'd still like to investigate the possibility of individual residents being allowed to "opt out" of the snowplowing district in the future.