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UPDATE: County Board to Consider Emergency Snow Ordinance

by ARLnow.com February 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm 1,155 8 Comments

The Arlington County Board will consider an emergency snow removal ordinance at its March meeting, one week before the first day of spring. The board also directed itself to draft language for a permanent ordinance, for consideration at the board’s April meeting.

The measures were proposed by board member Chris Zimmerman, who cited numerous examples of snow still covering sidewalks on busy Arlington streets.

Board chairman Jay Fisette and board member Barbara Favola voted, unsuccessfully, to remove consideration of the temporary ordinance from Zimmerman’s resolution.

Favola questioned whether the temporary measure is necessary, given the low chance of significant snowfall after March 13. She said that while she would support a permanent ordinance that has received community input.

Acting county manager Barbara Donnellan cautioned that vetting the emergency ordinance on short notice will require county staff to be diverted from other projects. She also said it would be difficult to notify Arlington businesses of the proposed change in policy.

The proposed emergency ordinance, which will be voted on at the March 13 board meeting, requires property owners in commercial districts to clear snow from walkways bordering their businesses within 24 hours of snowfall ending. It would be put into effect for a period of 60 days.

Despite the objections of Favola and Fisette to the emergency ordinance, Zimmerman’s resolution passed unanimously.

Original story from 2/20/10:

While some residents are upset with the county for not making more of an effort to clear the mountains of snow and ice deposited on sidewalks by county plows, others are calling for a sidewalk snow ordinance to punish property owners for not clearing the sidewalks themselves.

Local blogger and activist Miles Grant says a such an ordinance may be in the works. The measure is being pushed by two different Democratic organizations. Apparently those groups have some pull. Here’s what @MilesGrant had to say about the ordinance on Twitter:

New sidewalk snow removal policy in @ArlingtonVA could come as soon as Tuesday… Nice work @GordonSimonett & @ArlingtonYDs!

  • Debbie

    Alternate street parking in order for the crews to plow streets is necessary. Even those people who DID shovel their walks during this last storm…some had their walks totally covered with up to 6 feet of ICE from the street clearing. In some areas, walking is now the most hazardous activity I do to go down Washington BLVD to EFC metro station. The state/county cleared the roads for CARS but not for pedestrian traffic. Could we have cones to take the merge lane and make it into a pedestrian lane? Drivers are very rude and hoke their horns. I live, work, and pay taxes in Arlington. I take metro. Yet I am made to take my life in my hands just to get to metro. People just passing through the county to get to work really should have some compassion for pedestrians…if not then the county can at least spend some resources to make our trip safer.

  • Using the worst snow storm in the history of Arlington to justify new laws – is just a dumb idea. This was snowpocalypse. I have lived here for decades and never experienced anything like this. And I think it will be highly unlikely that we will experience anything like this again for a few decades. Creating new laws now for the purpose of how people are suppose to act during snowpocalypses – will serve no purpose do no good and just create liabilities where they are not needed.

    The question is not – do we need a sidewalk law when 3 feet of snow falls – the question is whether we need a sidewalk law and alt street parking when 3 INCHES of snow falls (the normal amount). Do we??

    As for snowpocalypse, well, we all helped each other. We shoveled for each other. We helped each others stuck cars. We shoveled the schools. And well weird things happen. Nothing to do but take lots of pictures, have fun, and call the roofer.

  • Sandy

    To think that this is a one time event is to be naive. There is more moisture in the atmosphere and more likely that big snows will be part of our future. That said, we should have in place an ordinance that addresses the spectacular. In my neighborhood, I saw houses across the street from schools with no shoveled sidewalks, but the driveway and the path to the door where sure cleared!

  • Steve

    Bad idea – I wonder why Sandy doesn’t clear off the sidewalk of her neighbors if she wants them cleared… hmmm… nope easier for her to try in a weird way to make her neighbors feel guilty, and then try to use the government to force them to do what she wants… Zimmerman loses my vote over this.

  • Gotta agree with Steve. Sandy – why do the neighbors of the school have the obligation to do shoveling for the school?? Simple answer – they dont. A lot of people have lived here in Arlington for a long time. I am not sure we have any WWII first time owners left – but I know when I moved to Arlington we did. Some of our residents, well, they are not able to shovel walks. And I did not see many teenagers wandering around with shovels looking for work – they way I did when I was a kid. Shoveling snow is hard work. People have complicated circumstances. Not everyone can skip out the front door and train for the Mr Universe Contest by shoveling snow. Of course they may have to accept that the post man cant walk to their door — but that is not the same as saddling on them a burden to benefit the local school or anyone else.

    I have a better idea. Have the PTA organize parent teams who are willing to volunteer to shovel on those rare occasions when snowpocalypses happen (that would be once every 100 years). I would be glad to do it. Other people helped. And maybe some of the neighbors of the school might be willing to do it if they got some help.

    Final thought. At Kenmore, Williamsburg, Taylor, and HB Woodlawn – the important sidewalks were not the ones in front of neighbors — they are the ones in front of school property. Imposing a burden on neighbors to benefit schools would probably solve only the smallest problem – where getting the sidewalks cleared in front of the schools – that would be big.

  • MB

    Foursquare behind a commercial snow removal ordinance. If you need to know why, ask anyone who tried to get up or down Wilson Boulevard last week. Appalling failure by *many* local business (most of whom managed to clear out their parking lots just fine). And many of them are repeat offenders (from December).

  • Pam

    This is the first place I’ve ever lived where people aren’t fined for removing snow from sidewalks. I appreciate that this was a heck of the storm — but what about the other snowfalls? Pedestrians get the short thrift trying to get to the bus and metro. On Columbia Pike I still have to walk in the street to get home from the bus stop and believe me it’s terrifying. I’ve seen wheelchairs in the street on Wilson Blvd and that is just so wrong. This should be all snowstorms with extremely large ones excepted for a certain period of time.

  • MD

    Such a bad idea, if nothing else because it’s unenforceable. Passing laws to feel good knowing they will not result in corrective action is legislating at it’s stupidest.

    I can only imagine the howling the first time a cop or code enforcement guy hands a ticket to a 78-year-old woman for not shoveling the sidewalk in front of her dry cleaning shop. Or issues a citation to any of the 10,000 lawyers in Arlington after he DID clear the sidewalk only to have a county plow cover it up for the third time. That will be a fun lawsuit to defend.

    You can’t legislate petty decent behavior. People will either do it or they won’t.

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