County Rolls Out Snow Removal Guidance, Reporting Form

(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) As the Washington area prepares for the first actual, bona fide snowfall of the season tomorrow, Arlington County has revealed some additional guidance for how it intends to enforce its new snow removal ordinance.

The ordinance calls for snow and ice to be removed from sidewalks within 24 to 36 hours of precipitation ending.

The chief means for enforcement of the ordinance will, essentially, be neighbors tattling on each other, via a new web-based reporting form.

Citizens will fill in the address of the problem area, refining it as necessary by clicking on a map. Then they will select from four preset “concerns” — either a concerns about the street or a sidewalk. Finally, users will type in their name and — optionally — contact information (for follow-ups, not for public dissemination) and press a submit button.

The complaint will go to county staff, who will review it and dispatch code enforcement agents as necessary.

According to Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier, enforcement agents will, at first, “try to give notification and warning” in lieu of the $50-$100 fine called for in the ordinance.

“They will try to find the entity that would be responsible for that sidewalk and try to make contact with that person to say ‘do you know we have a new ordinance?'” she said. Allgeier added that the county will specifically target “high-traffic and high-density areas” for enforcement.

The goal, officials say, is voluntary compliance.

“We will remain flexible, and use a good dose of common sense along the way,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan. “We are hoping for a very light snow year, but nonetheless, our implementation plan is ready.”

Elderly and disabled individuals physically incapable of removing snow from their sidewalks will be exempt from the ordinance. For now, county staff will determine exempt status by contacting the homeowner directly; no exemption list will be maintained.

Donnellan added that the enforcement plan is still evolving.

“This first snow season will be a learning year,” she said.

To help clear sidewalks for exempt homeowners, the county is working with civic associations to form volunteer snow removal crews. Anyone interested in joining can fill out this form online.