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Do you really have to shovel your sidewalks?

Monday - 12/21/2009, 4:37pm  ET

kryansnow2.jpg
If you don't shovel the white stuff, the city can swoop in and do it for you. But it will cost you $25 and a lawsuit. (WTOP Photo/Kate Ryan)
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Kate Ryan, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - You managed to excavate the car from underneath an avalanche of snow. You even got the driveway into shape.

So do you really have to tackle the sidewalk, too?

That depends on where you live.

If you live in Montgomery County, shoveling the sidewalk is a legal obligation.

"Montgomery County law requires that all residential and commercial property owners clear their public sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm," Montgomery County government spokesperson Esther Bowring says.

If not, you can be cited.

Alexandria City also requires that you clear the sidewalks in front of your property.

It's also the law in the District, although there's a move to change the regulation.

Right now, D.C. residents are required to clear the snow from their sidewalks within the first eight hours of daylight after the snow stops falling.

If you don't shovel the white stuff, the city can swoop in and do it for you. But it will cost you $25 and a lawsuit. Yes, the city could sue you.

Even with that regulation, two D.C. Council members say the sidewalks are often left snow-covered and treacherous.

So D.C. Council members Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh are proposing the city get rid of the lawsuits and instead just impose a fine: $25 for residents who don't clear the walkways, and $250 for businesses who skip the chore.

In Fairfax County, it's a completely different story.

There's no legal obligation to shovel sidewalks, but the county asks that residents "help out their neighbors in keeping sidewalks clear and safe," county spokesperson Merni Fitzgerald says.

Montgomery County also asks you to pitch in, especially if you have elderly neighbors who can't manage the heavy lifting that can come with the job of clearing snow.

(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)