A Waterloo resident clears the snow from the sidewalk. (Feb. 6, 2020)

Slippery and snow-covered sidewalks have led to a spike in complaints in Waterloo.

City staff say there are a number of reasons why.

Not only has Waterloo Region seen more fluctuations in this year's winter weather but the number of reports increased after the city launched its new complaint system.

City bylaw states that residents must clear their sidewalks within 48 hours of a snowfall.

Waterloo resident David Reinhardt says he doesn’t mind shoveling but he’s seen some people get upset when others don’t clean their sidewalks.

“I think people are afraid to deal with their neighbours sometimes,” he says. “If you have a noise complaint, or snow, I know a lot of people can get their backs up when people approach them”

Last year complaints increased by 250%.

That may indicate that a new system makes residents feel more comfortable with reporting a neighbour, thereby avoiding a face-to-face conversation or confrontation.

But the city says the complaint system shouldn’t be considered a solution.

“Unfortunately that may also rely heavily upon the fact that they are complaining through social media or through this platform and not taking responsibility and getting to know their neighbour,” says Christopher Mulhern, the manager of Compliance and Standards for the City of Waterloo.

Residents are being reminded that making complaint through the system should be the last resort.

“Talk to your neighbour,” says Mulhern. “Can they help? Can you help them? That’s a lot more of a stronger message than an enforcement-related message.”

Reinhardt says he feels lucky to live in his neighbourhood near Uptown Waterloo.

“We have very good neighbours, young families, people our age and a bit older. Everybody pitches in and it’s great to see here.”

If the homeowner ignores a sidewalk-clearing order by a bylaw officer then they could face a bill for between $300 and $500.