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Didn't Shovel Your Walk? In D.C., It'll Soon Be A Finable Offense

Soon failing to clear that sidewalk will be a finable offense in D.C.
Soon failing to clear that sidewalk will be a finable offense in D.C.

Yes, we're aware that it's summer. And yes, it's probably way too early to start thinking about snow. But this winter news is something you may want to pay attention to.

For the first time since 1922, D.C. is moving to put teeth into its law requiring that residents and businesses clear their sidewalks after snowstorms. On Friday, the D.C. Department of Public Works published proposed regulations laying out a schedule of fines for residents and businesses who fail to shovel away snow and ice after a storm.

Under the proposed rules — which are open to public comment for 30 days — residents could be fined $25 and businesses $150 for not clearing up to 36 inches of sidewalk in front of their property within 24 hours of the end of a storm. The rules offer exemptions for any resident who is either over the age of 65 or can prove that they suffer from a disability.

The rules follow a bill approved by the D.C. Council last November that updates the city's 93-year-old shoveling law. Some residents and legislators had long complained that the law was too difficult to enforce; under its provisions, an untouched sidewalk had to be cleared by the city, and the home or business owner had to be sued to cover that cost. No lawsuits were ever filed for failure to clear away snow or ice.

But for years any attempts to add teeth to the law went nowhere. Legislators argued that senior citizens and the disabled would be unfairly fined for not shoveling, despite their inability to do so. But after provisions were added to the law exempting them, it easily passed the Council.

The proposed rules only allow residents or businesses to be fined once every 24 hours, and do not establish a graduated schedule of fines for repeat offenders as the Council had initially debated.

After the rules are finalized, the Department of Public Works will still have to notify every resident and business of the new fines.


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