Evanston Now has received email messages from two local residents this week asking us to “remind” readers that overnight snow blower use is banned under city ordinance. Trouble is, there isn’t any such ban.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the city code, which has several noise regulations, doesn’t specifically mention snow blowers.

It does generally ban “any loud, unnecessary or unusual noise” at any time. But then the code also imposes an obligation on residents to clear the public sidewalk in front of their home of snow, which arguably makes the snowblower noise “necessary.”

The code also bans engine exhaust noise, unless the engine has a muffler — which snow blowers generally do have.

Time restrictions apply to construction noise — that’s limited to between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. But blowing snow isn’t construction work.

And, of course, there is Evanston’s famously little-enforced ban on leaf blowers — which restricts their use by time of day and season of the year.

Bobkiewicz says anyone aggrieved by late-night snow-blowing could call the city to complain under the general provision against “any loud, unnecessary or unusual noise.” and that police would respond to try to assess whether a violation had actually occurred.

He said he wasn’t aware of any citations being issued for snow blower use.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Since you mention it…

    Thanks Bill,

    And since you mention above: "famously little-enforced ban on leaf blowers" … It seems that the ordinance to remove snow from the public way in front of ones' home or business after a snowfall is also famously not enforced. If you will forgive the pun, it may seem like sliding on a "slippery slope" to do this but if our City wants to encourage its citizens to walk and not drive and to ensure public safety… compliance should be regulated!

    And bonus… since the City is always looking for ways to enhance revenue – these fines could be meaningful (after reasonable notification is given that one is in violation). Many cities like St. Paul and Madison address this problem with excellent results.. Here in Evanston, there is an ordinance – just no teeth! There is a popular misconception that if a responsible party does nothing then they cannot be liable. Methinks that is pure hokum…

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G; Becharas

    1. Snow blowing NOT banned…

      and I hope that that remains the case. Snow removal is a safety issue, especially for children using sidewalks in the morning.

      1. Safety is important, but so is proper rest

        Safety IS important, but so is proper rest.  I'll be happy to send my neighbor to your block — he likes to start using his snow blower as early as 4:30 am, when my kids are still asleep.

      2. As one who travels for work
        As one who travels for work frequently and have to leave the house sometimes at 5:30 in the morning after a snowfall, getting the snowblower out at that time is necessary to comply with the city ordinance, which is a good ordinance and should be enforced.

        1. I believe the city ordinance

          I believe the city ordinance is that the sidewalk should be cleared within 24 hours after 2 inches of snow has fallen.

          1. City code on snow removal



            Snow and Ice. Whenever there is a snowfall with an accumulation of four inches (4") or more within any twenty-four (24) hour span of time, every owner or occupant of a dwelling or other building, or proprietor or lessee of any enclosed lot or premises, shall clear a path at least thirty-six inches wide (36") on the sidewalks in front of or adjoining such house, building or premises of snow and ice. The path shall be created and cleared within twenty-four (24) hours of any four-inch (4") or greater snowfall, and the path shall be maintained and clear of snow and ice. If the snow and ice is hardened and congealed such that removal is unduly burdensome or may damage the sidewalk, the sidewalk shall have sand, salt or similar deicing material spread upon its surface. The path shall be cleared and created to give access to abutting property and public ways. All landlords shall clear snow and ice from private sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces, parking lots, and similar areas on private property to permit access for tenants and invitees to such private property.

          2. Thanks Bill, 4 inches, not 2

            Thanks Bill, 4 inches, not 2 inches

            That does not clear things up for me. It reads like you can have 3 inches of snowfall every other day for a month, accumulate 45 inches of snow, and not need to clear the sidewalk even one time. This may not be very neighborly but it looks like it would be compliant with the ordinance, if you are the home owner.

            It appears that landlords must clear everything except public sidewalks.

            Does anybody think I am reading this incorrectly?

            Think of all the years that I cleared the sidewalks when there was only 2 or 3 inches of snowfall.

          3. Shoveling Requirement—More Confusion
            Despite the quoted ‘4 inch requirement’ and a reader thinking it was 2 inches, in Dec.(?) the city mail to residents a pamphlet saying snow must be shoveled when there was ‘any’ snow.
            Another right hand not know what the left said.

    2. Sidewalk clearing almost never enforced

      Sunday morning, after a week of several snows, I noticed the sidewalks.  From the stadium to NU campus [Asbury, Lincoln, Cofax, Orrington to Foster] I saw two building both on Central by Asubury and one house on Colfax that had shoveled–or at least did enough to be meaningful.

      People see this and realize the city itself does nothing to enforce the law.  Those who do shovel either do it because it is the right thing to do, or realize that the city will do nothiing unless some resident complains.  The latter of when the city acts, is like when a yard can have one piece of paper on it and a resident complains and the city sends a notice—while lawns all over Evanston have papers, bottles, cans, etc. but the city does nothing—including all the garbage on the city hall property front and back.

      1. Parks Sidewalks/Garbage
        The City hasn’t cleaned the sidewalks around the Parks that I walk by with my dog. I know someone came by with a tractor since I can see tire tracks. The drove up looked and drove off apparently

        I’ve called about the garbage in the trash cans in the parks since the cans are overflowing. I get music when I dial 311 or a Commercial to join a city group.

        1. parks not cleared

          I noticed that as well. One park on asbury was so bad, bumpy ice under a layer of snow, I decided that it was safer to walk on the street than on the walk.

  2. Not black and white issue
    Ok. So, it’s not a black and white issue. There are legitimate concerns on both sides. Safety is a concern for sure. As is the right of the homeowner to not be disturbed at 4am. We resolved our issue by speaking with our neighbor and coming to an agreement that works for both of us. No governmental involvement needed. We’re both reasonable people. Hopefully others that have this issue can get the same results.

  3. Snowblowers aren’t “necessary”
    Snowblowers are not necessary to clean your walk.

    There is something called a shovel!!!

    1. Live with it!

      I live in NW Evanston. I am one of those neighbors that are up at 4:30 – 5 AM to shovel snow and run my snow-blower. I do my alley and my sidewalks.

      Like most Evanston residents, I need to leave for work early in the morning. So I need to start early to get it done before work or it would wait till 6 PM when I get home.

      I feel it is civic responsibility to make it safe for my neighbors to walk their dogs, to walk to work and the train station, and our neighborhood children to walk to school. This can only be accomplished by doing it very early in the morning.

      Many times, I even do my neighbors sidewalks. Additionally, I believe it is safer to do when nobody is walking around. Come on now, we all know what Chicago winters are like and know the sounds of the winter. I try to be as quiet as I can in the morning.

      But suggesting the Evanston officials or police get involved in stopping early morning noise from people who want to make it safe for people to walk in our neighborhoods. Get real!

      1. The actual ordinance

        ~The City of Evanston reminds residents and businesses of their responsibility to remove snow and ice from walkways after a winter event.

        Homeowners & businesses are responsible for clearing sidewalks adjacent to their property within 24 hours after a 4" snowfall. If snow is packed and difficult to remove, please use salt or sand to make sidewalks passable.

        Landlords are responsible for keeping sidewalks, parking lots and all common areas, including open stairwells, free from all hazardous conditions at all times.

        Sidewalks should be completely cleared to allow everyone, including people with disabilities and the elderly, to travel freely using the sidewalks instead of the street.

        Removal of snow and ice from the side-walks, curb cuts and parking lots can help to prevent needless accidents and injuries. Also be aware of elderly or disabled neighbors that cannot shovel their own walks and offer to help.

      2. I only wish I had a snowblower…

        Michael – I wish you were MY neighbor.  I do not have a snowblower due to lack of storage space.  For 16 years I have been shoveling both my driveway and sidewalk and my neighbor's driveway and sidewalk.  My neighbor just turned 93 last year and she simply doesn't have the ability or the financial flexibility to have it done on her own.  Shoveling is hard on the back… especially when we have those heavy snows. 

        For those out there who are complaining because people are doing their civic duty, invest in a cheap pair of earplugs.  Keep them in your night table drawer and pull them out as needed.  This is an urban environment.  I'm sure there are more sounds than snowblowers that impact all of our ability to sleep.  Also, sleep is a great thing, but so is compassion and understanding for those who have to be up, out of bed and at work earlier than those who are fortunate enough to be able to sleep in.  Let's keep an open mind people and try to think beyond ourselves.  There is a much bigger picture when you step back and take a look.

        1. Compassion is the key word

          I agree with Muneaux 100%!

          If we all assume good will, we could be better as a society. I would ask the "noisy" neighbor why they need to remove snow at such hours. We may be surprised at the answers we receive. It may be someone having to go to work very early, or even somebody just coming back from a long night shift of work!

          I propose a solution: offer the loud neighbor help, so the task can be done in a timely manner during regular day hours.

  4. clearing sidewalks

    i do not know if store owners in evanston read evanston now.  i would hope they do.  

    although many residential owners (quite a few of whom are young people) neglect to clear their walks, the problem in down town and on main street and other commercial areas is more complex.  many walks in front of businesses are cleared with only a very narrow path, which then gets slushy and then frozen after time, with no apparent attempt to widen the path or put down some salt or sand.  but what really is riling me these days, having just passed by 80th birthday, is the inability to get from my car to the parking meter, due to the large mound of snow left by the snow plows.  some rare businesses carve thoughtful access walks in front of several meters near their businesses.  thank you!  i asked two business owners who is responsible for clearing their walks; the owners of the buildings, they said.  i hope downtown evanston and the chamber will take up this issue.  if i can't put money in the meter and can't get down the walks, well then, i just won't be shopping in evanston, will i?

    mary brugliera

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