- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2002

Montgomery County doesn't plan to strictly enforce its new law requiring homeowners to clear snow off their sidewalks, but residents of the District and Rockville can expect up to a $100 fine if they don't break out the shovels soon.
The Montgomery County Council last year made failure to clear the sidewalk in front of a home or business subject to a $50 fine, but this year a warning letter explaining the new law is more likely than a ticket.
"That was the understanding really when we passed the law that we would be educating the public about the law. There wasn't the expectation that there would be folks roaming around looking for people not in compliance," said council member Philip Andrews, Rockville Democrat, who introduced the legislation.
The law was designed to advance pedestrian safety, he said. Clearing away the snow keeps the tens of thousands of county children who walk to school from being forced into the streets.
The law stipulates that sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall.
Similar residential snow-clearing requirements exist in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, Kensington and Chevy Chase, as well as in Prince George's County, the District and Alexandria.
Prince George's County will not be using fines to enforce its snow-clearing law.
"We recommend they do that for the obvious safety reasons. But if someone does not, we are not going to show up and ticket them," said Prince George's County police spokesman Capt. Chauncey Bowers. He said the snow-removal enforcement would focus on parking restrictions rather than sidewalks.
Alexandria officials also prefer not to write tickets, although the law there calls for fines if walkways are not cleared within 24 hours. Code officers usually issue warnings.
"We are going to do it on a complaint basis or on heavily traveled areas," said Assistant City Manager Michele Evans. "We are not sending people up and down the street. Hopefully, it will get warmer."
The District plans to start writing tickets if the sidewalks are not cleared within the first eight hours of daylight after a snowfall. A city spokesman yesterday evening could not give the amount of the fine.
In Gaithersburg, the sidewalks must be cleared within 12 hours of the end of the snowfall. Violators get a warning and have another 12 hours to comply before becoming eligible for a $100 fine.
Unlike the county law, which relies on complaints to trigger a warning letter, the Gaithersburg ordinance is policed by code- enforcement officers.
"We obviously have pedestrian-oriented areas and we concentrate there and along bus routes," said Greg Ossont, director of Gaithersburg Department of Neighborhood Services. He said the city typically issues six or seven citations a year, but mostly to owners of commercial property.
The enforcement in Rockville is even more aggressive, with code officers patrolling residential and commercial districts. They are much tougher on commercial properties, though.
"We are Rockville the citizen-friendly community and in many cases we will give a written warning to residents," said Neil H. Greenberger, the city's public-information manager. He said the owner of a commercial property will get a $100 ticket right away.
Each subsequent violation carries a $200 fine. Property owners have 24 hours to clear snow when accumulation is less than 3 inches and 48 hours to clear more than 3 inches of snow.
"We do enforce it," Mr. Greenberger said.
"We have people pretty dedicated to upkeep of property, and when it snows like this it becomes their focus for a day or two."
Mr. Andrews, the Montgomery County council member, said the rest of the county would be on a "learning curve" before they start getting tickets like in Gaithersburg or Rockville, where the laws are well-established.
"It's relatively new in the county and it is the first snow we've had since the law took effect," he said yesterday when more than 6 inches of snow fell on the county. "I'm confident most people will do the right thing and help out their neighbors when they find out the reason for [the law]."
He urged people to "help out or chip in and do something" when they know a neighbor is elderly or disabled and unable to shovel.
Montgomery County residents who need assistance clearing their walkways can call the county volunteer center at 240/777-2600 or Casa De Maryland, a nonprofit group that offers snow removal for a fee, at 301/431-4177 or 301/431-4185.

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