Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1956 No. 195 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


 A city of the third class is empowered by RCW 35.24.290, as an incident to its police power, to pass an ordinance requiring abutting owners and occupants to remove snow from sidewalks, and permitting the imposition of a lien against abutting property to pay cost of such removal in the event of failure of compliance.

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                                                                 January 26, 1956 
Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington"                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 195

Attention:  !ttMr. A. E. Hankins
            Chief Examiner
            Division of Municipal Corporations 

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have asked the opinion of this office concerning a question which we paraphrase as follows:

             Does a city of the third class, operating under the council-manager form of government, have the authority, in the exercise of its police power, to pass an ordinance requiring abutting property owners and occupants to remove snow from sidewalks as it accumulates, and further, in the event a given owner or occupant fails to comply to remove the snow itself, imposing a lien on the property for the cost of the work, and providing a method for enforcing the lien?

             Our answer to your question is in the affirmative.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]


             The fact that the city in question operates under the council-manager plan is not material to your inquiry.  RCW 35.18.030 provides in part as follows:

             "A city or town organized under the council-manager plan shall have all the powers which cities of its class have and shall be governed by the statutes applicable to such cities to the extent to which they are appropriate and not in conflict with the provisions specifically applicable to cities organized under the council-manager plan."

             In view of that provision, we must refer to chapter 35.24 RCW, which makes provision, for third class cities.  RCW 35.24.290 enumerates specific powers granted to cities of the third class.  It is true that the language of this section does not specifically empower a city of the third class to enact an ordinance of the kind described in your inquiry; but subsection (3) thereof gives the city "power * * * to establish, lay out, alter, keep open, widen, vacate, improve and repair * * * sidewalks."  Subsection (12) provides that the city may impose fines, penalties and forfeitures for violation of its ordinances; while subsection (18) further provides that the city has power to make all such ordinances and do and perform any and all acts and things necessary to carry out the powers granted to it.

             These sections, we think, are sufficient to justify an ordinance requiring an owner or occupant to remove snow from the sidewalks in front of his property.  SeeState v. McCrillis, 28 R.I. 165, 66 Atl. 301;State v. McMahon, 76 Conn. 97, 55 Atl. 591.  In the past there has been some conflict of authority on the question, but that the Washington court would follow this, the majority rule, seems clear from the case ofNorthern Pacific Railway Co. v. Adams County, 78 Wash. 53.  In that case the court considered the constitutionality of a statute providing that owners of abutting lands should cut noxious weeds in the road to the center of the highway, and that upon default, the work should be done by the county and the cost assessed as a tax upon the land.  The court held the act constitutional, largely upon the basis of its analogy to snow-removal statutes of the sort contemplated here.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It would appear from Northern Pacific Railway Co. v. Adams, supra, that the proposed ordinance would not be unconstitutional and we are unable to find any general law with which it would be in conflict.  It is therefore our conclusion that a city of the third class does have authority under its police power to pass an ordinance requiring snow removal from sidewalks and permitting the imposition of a lien on the abutting property to pay the cost of such removal in the event of failure of compliance.

 Very truly yours,

Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General