Portland city officials have issued 15 violation letters to commercial property owners instructing them to clean dangerous ice and snow from their roofs, in connection with two incidents in which falling ice damaged cars parked in the Old Port.

Owners have four hours to respond to the notices, according to a city ordinance, although city officials say they are more interested in getting building owners to clean their roofs than in taking action against them. The notices are sent via certified mail.

Failure to clean roofs could lead to fines and a requirement to install roof dams, which block snow and ice from sliding off.

Members of the city’s Inspections Department have been going door-to-door alerting downtown property owners of their obligations and advising store owners to post signs urging pedestrians to watch for falling ice. The city has conducted some re-inspections, although it’s unclear whether any further action has been taken against owners who haven’t complied.

City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the reason the ice has struck cars and not pedestrians is that it has come from ice buildup on slanted roofs, which often can’t be seen from the ground. When the ice falls off – which occurs as temperatures rise above freezing – it flies away from the building, rather than straight down.

“People need to be careful. If they look up, they might not see something but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s nothing there,” she said.

SECOND CAR DAMAGED

Adam Sousa parked his car in front of 1 Exchange St. on Feb. 22 and returned to find his front and rear windshields smashed by large blocks of ice that apparently fell from the roof of the building. Two days later, crews were seen cleaning ice and snow off the roof at 1 Exchange St.

On Wednesday, another car was damaged while it was parked just five feet from where the first incident took place. This time, officials said the ice fell from 7 Exchange St., the building next door.

Michael Ryan said he was sitting in a car parked in front of 7 Exchange St. when a chunk of ice fell from the roof and broke through the car’s windshield. He was startled, but uninjured.

Both buildings are listed on city records as owned by Eleven Exchange LLC, a company controlled by Joseph Soley. Soley, who has tangled in the past with the city and tenants over his obligations as a landlord, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Grondin said Thursday morning that the city was trying to get in touch with Soley, and that the city had sent him a violation letter.

Since the first car was struck by ice Feb. 22, prompting the city to ask residents to report hanging ice or snow, the city has conducted or scheduled 18 inspections or re-inspections. Some were the result of complaints and others because of observations made by inspections staff. A few of the owners responded right away by removing hanging ice. Others received notices of violation from the city, some last week and some Thursday.

Almost all the problem properties were downtown on the peninsula, and the street with the most complaints was Exchange Street.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Mainehenchman