There’s a big new house going up in our neighborhood. So here’s the thing: Nearly every house nearby is designed so that snow sheds to the back and front yards. This new one, however, is designed to dump the snow sideways onto the neighbor’s property. It’s better to give than receive, but whose responsibility is it to remove the snow dumped from one property onto another? The dumper or the dumpee? And is there any recourse for all the leaves my neighbor’s tree collection gifted to my yard? – Han D. Mann
The last time Action Line opined about water issues in Colorado, a torrent of legal advice engorged the Mea Culpa Mailbag.
Something as simple as water is very complicated, especially on the Western Slope, which gets 80 percent of the state’s snowfall but only has a tenth of the state’s population.
So asking about wintertime roof regulations is a slippery slope indeed.
That’s why Action Line consulted with two local water lawyers instead of merely going with the flow.
First the good news: It’s highly unlikely that roof snow will pile onto neighboring property.
Attorney Geoff Craig points out that the city requires dwellings to have at least a 5-foot setback from the property line.
“There would have to be a lot of snow to spill over the boundary,” he said. “If it did, I suppose you might theoretically have a snow trespass issue.”
Snow trespass? Yes, there’s such a thing.
Geoff should know. He was involved in such a case in which snow was pushed over to and stored on someone else’s property, hence snow trespass.
But snow shedding off a roof as trespass? “That seems kind of silly.”
As for who’s responsible for removing the snow, attorney Amy Novak Huff of Colorado Water & Land Law LLC, points out that no one person or entity “owns” the snow.
“Water in Colorado is dedicated to the public, and the state has the right to appropriate it,” she said.
“So you can’t ask the state to come over and remove its property,” she added with a chuckle.
Meanwhile, the city laws don’t address snow sliding from roofs.
There are standards for how much snowload a roof needs to handle. There are also laws requiring everyone, including renters, to shovel snow from sidewalks but not into the streets.
And the Land Use Code requires “adequate areas for snow storage throughout the development,” with drainage “away from pedestrian and vehicular use areas and into vegetated buffer strips or other appropriate best management practices (BMPs).”
So be a BFF and have a neighborly BBQ to discuss BMPs for potential roof-bergs.
Embrace your newly found liquid bounty.
In the dripline, plant some herbaceous perennials that could use the extra moisture and thank your next-door neighbor for facilitating a wonderful, ecologically responsible rain garden.
Notice that it’s a “rain garden” and not a “snow garden.”
Has anyone noticed that Durango has seen pouring rains during every “winter” month for the last several years?
Good thing that global warming and climate change have been canceled via executive order for the next three years.
Otherwise, people would raise the roof about the precipitous precipitation situation.
And as for the leaves, it’s time to turn over a new one.
Not only is your neighbor giving you water for the rain garden but also humus to enrich the soil.
Life is good when you’re the dumped.
Email questions to email@example.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you’re bound and determined to make that cracked snow shovel last another winter.