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County Rolls Out Snow Removal Guidance, Reporting Form

by ARLnow.com December 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm 2,656 38 Comments

(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.

  • Lou

    One person’s “good dose of common sense” is another person’s “arbitrary enforcement”.

  • MrStevens

    1984… Citizens reporting each other…

    • JD32

      Snitches get stitches!

    • mehoo

      God forbid people should complain about someone else creating a public nuisance in violation of the law.

  • Not amused

    Arlington’s Code Enforcement unit is corrupt and dishonest (including managers and supervisors). Marsha Allgeier knows this. Until the County takes the necessary actions to clean up the mess in Inspections, Permits, and Code Enforcement, citizens can have no confidence in their work.

    • FedUp

      Agreed. Someone needs to let Ms. Allgeier know. Who will come forward?

  • Michael

    So what if said neighbor took off to the Caribbean for a week’s vacation. They are going to be fined for something they had no control of? I am sorry this is a bunch of B.S. Maybe the county should enforce mandatory “Snow Care” services that we all pay to plow our sidewalks. I am from Western NY and when we were hit with snow (all winter) neighbors looked out for neighbors– we didn’t REPORT them! You knock on the neighbors door if their sidewalk is a nuisance to first see if they are ok and second to help them out if they might be in need.

    • Take it down a notch

      Of course you can still do that. But if the neighbor is capable of shoveling the sidewalk and refuses to do so, you can get the county involved. There is no law saying you must report your neighbor no matter what.

      • Michael

        Ok fair enough. But what if that willing and able neighbor is away on vacation? Do I need to provide the county with emergency contact information when I am on vacation so I can call someone to plow my sidewalk?

        • Shane

          Yes.

        • Mark

          During last years big storms one of the neighbors, who lives on a corner lot, shoveled his driveway and car port out so that there was not an ounce of snow on them but didn’t touch his sidewalks. Another neighbor who is 75 years old was out shoveling with a broken wrist. The douche that made people walk in the street should be penalized hard.

    • mehoo

      There’s nothing stopping anyone from knocking on doors first. If someone answers and says “screw you, I’m not shoveling any snow” THEN you can report them.

      And who says the county won’t knock on doors too?

  • Tater Salad

    And I quote from the “Exemptions” provisions in the snow removal ordinance: “Commercial property owners are expected to comply with the Ordinance.” Why are they not REQUIRED to comply?

    • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

      Don’t want to upset those poor business owners, now would you? Oh no no. (tic) Thank you Arlington County Board for dreaming up this fine Orwellian system. They and their minions will get a happy call from me if they harass my 90 year old aunts every snow…

    • Janel

      I will gladly use the form to enter complants about commercial properties that don’t properly remove their snow. Silver Diner’s corner in Clarendon has been routinely been bad to walk on.

  • Bender

    Meanwhile, are the county street plows going to stop pushing snow off the street onto sidewalks and into driveways?

    • Maria

      Where do you suggest they push it?

      • Bender

        Ha, ha. I could say something snarky about a certain part of Zimmerman’s body, but you get it, don’t you?

        I don’t care where they push the street snow, so long as it is not on the sidewalk, where someone will have to shovel that snow too, especially since (a) the snow plowed from the street will be hardpacked and (b) that sidewalk might have already been cleared, necessitating that the sidewalk be cleared again.

  • Deb

    This ought to make the feud between my neighbors across the street even more interesting. They love to call the cops on each other… Now they just have to fill out a form online. Outstanding.

    And I agree with Michael: “neighbors looked out for neighbors– we didn’t REPORT them! You knock on the neighbors door if their sidewalk is a nuisance to first see if they are ok and second to help them out if they might be in need.”

  • CJR

    Question about the website reporting. I have some neighbors I don’t like, do I have to list my info to report they are not shoveling the snow? And if yes, can they find out who reported on them through a public record FOIA request? Joking about not liking the neighbors, but I can see all kinds of abuses by both having to list your contact info, and not having to list your contact info. I live on a corner lot with a sidewalk, and that is one hell of a lot of snow removal, and wouldn’t expect for a neighbor to do that much work when I’m out of town. But you can be sure that if I get a ticket, I will be putting in 100s of reports to keep the cheerful “auditors” busy. Hell, a $100 fine might be worth it if they will then shovel my sidewalk – I paid neighborhood kids $80 last year, and they did an awful job.

    • Set the controls

      Generally, the first person who asks you if you ever found out who ratted you out for not shoveling is the person who ratted you out.

  • TGEoA

    I almost don’t want to shovel my walk just to screw with the enforcers.

  • John

    I am glad I am not the only one that thinks this is ridiculous. How much did it cost to implement this fancy reporting tool? Oh wait, I see how they are going to pay for it…

  • TGEoA

    I just reported Zimmerman.

    • Dan

      I agree….Zimmy was the person who pushed this ridiculous ordinance. It is obviously a bad ordinance but it will be expensive to get it thrown out.

  • Cad

    Excellent, as I assume this means the county will clear the walks at the park I need to walk either through or around to get to metro or stores.

  • Jim

    I can’t wait for the hipocracy to begin. The county NEVER cleans the sidewalks they are responsible for. If you want all this ridiculous crap to go away, report the areas that the county is responsible for, BUT at least wait until the 24 hour time expires…just to be ‘legal’. Oh let me guess, the county is also ‘exempt’.

  • MB

    1) Clear your own sidewalks.
    2) Be neighborly and help clear those that can’t do it themselves. (Recruit your neighbors in these efforts. The college kids at the end of the block were happy to help, once I mentioned it. It had simply never occurred to them, that they might have a role in clearing some of our neighbors walks.)
    3) If someone isn’t clearing their walk, and can, talk to them instead of reporting them.
    4) Don’t be an asshole.

    The four easy rules above will solve 99% of the issues that might otherwise be caused by the County’s snow reporting site. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?

    (And for the remaining 1%? Totally deserve whatever they get. R.E. Michel on Wilson Blvd, S&S Properties, and the owners of the Doctor’s Building? I hope you get hit with massive fines this year, if you do the same things you did last year. And I’ll help document it.)

  • Wolf_In_Sheep

    I did not build the sidewalk in front of my lawn but I must now clean it. If it is cracked must I fix it? I am on vacation, how can I clean my sidewalk if it snows? Can I report on my neighbor before he wakes up mid-day from working a night shift? Maybe I can waste county and law enforcement officials’ time with snow on the sidewalk complaints. There isn’t anywhere else for the plows to push the snow – if they block my newly shoveled sidewalk while I am at work, can a neighbor please tattle on me and get me ticketed? This must be how every other city that has ever experienced snow works. It isn’t? Well I guess we are just smarter than everyone else all over the world, then.

    “There is snow blocking the sidewalk!”
    “Then walk around it.”
    “But then I would be in the street!”
    “Then look both ways first and walk around it.”
    “But I don’t want to wait for cars or step on a snowbank.”
    “How about we pass a silly law that erodes our liberty and mocks common sense in order to feel good about how tidy we are?”
    “Yeah, yeah – then we can stick it to those evil companies like the ones that sign our paychecks!”

    I await the name calling, alleged enlightened Arlingtonians…

    • Set the controls

      From last year we now know that it snows in Arlington, so in the same breath that you ask your neighbor to grab your mail and while you’re on vacation, ask them to shovel your stretch of the sidewalk. As long as there’s an ordinance there will be an excuse not to do the responsible thing, so just do it. Kids walk along the sidewalk to get to school.

  • el fat kid

    what did they decide about if the county plows pushed the snow up on the sidewalk? Always did an initial shovel but we lived on a corner where the county trucks built a ten foot snow/ice pile making it impossible to clear the walk.

    • Lou

      From reading the ordinance, it looks like the exemptions would include places where the County has deposited snow onto areas where the citizen would be expected to clear it based on the new regulations.

      None of the aspects of the enforcement policy that the County Manager is supposed to develop appear to be finalized though. I believe the Board (Zimmerman particularly from what I read) was peeved about that not being done. If only they had some continuity in the County Manager position, the policy would have probably been ready when the ordinance went into effect.

  • NorthAdams

    I doubt anyone will ever get fined.
    major property owners are all sophisticated enough to clean up.
    and the small owners and violators are too few and far between.

  • Michael

    So what is the going rate for kids to shovel sidewalks these days???

  • NorthAdams

    The only seriously ironic lack of snow-removal I saw this morning was on …
    Columbia Pike. The VDOT facility for clearing snow (off streets mind you) had done nothing on their sidewalk. It looked terrible. Glad to be in my SOV.

  • Trial Attorney

    I spoke with a friend of mine who is a trial attorney about the snow ordinance. He said the trial attorneys were supporting this ordinance. If there is a slip and fall on a person’s sidewalk due to the icy conditions, and it’s 24 hours and 5 minutes after the snowfall – guess who gets sued? And since you didn’t comply with the county ordinance – you have no defense (since you will be ticketed when the police come to investigate the slip and fall). I can’t wait until the next major snowfall so I can wear my slippers and walk past some of those McMansions in Arlington and have an accident! I’ll sue for just enough so that the homeowner’s insurance would rather settle than litigate – I think $7,500 a pop sounds good.

    • NorthAdams

      i look forward to someone trying to make me responsible for property that is not mine. If someone wrecks their car in front of my house while speeding, I’m similarly not responsible.

  • I am the only person on my block that has a snowblower. Last winter after a snowfall I cleared the snow from my neighbors’ driveways without asking them if they wanted my help. I just got to thinking – if I clear a neighbor’s driveway of snow with my snowblower, and I did not previously ask the neighbor if he or she wanted me to do so, and then that neighbor slips and falls on some ice on their driveway could that neighbor sue me? If so, could they still sue me if I first got their permission to clear the snow from their driveway?

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