By Guy Leonard, St. Mary's County Times
HOLLYWOOD, Md.—The Commissioners of St. Marys County approved a public hearing Tuesday, June 9, for a new ordinance that would require businesses and homeowners to clear snow away from portions of sidewalk that abut their property.
The move is in response to a major dousing of snow this past winter that left sidewalks on county roads, like Great Mills Road, impassable and left many people to walk in the roadway.
The ordinance requires that real property owners remove snow, ice or other frozen precipitation from the entire width of the sidewalk, including the driveway entrance or ramps within 36 hours after the end of the weather event.
Property owners must also clean off their portion of the sidewalk even if a snowplow dumps snow or other frozen precipitation there within the same time frame; if the snow or ice cannot be removed then property owners are required to apply salt or some other anti-icing agent so the sidewalk is usable to pedestrians.
Moreover, property owners are not allowed to shovel the snow from their portion of the sidewalk back onto the road but must shovel it onto their own property.
Though the ordinance states that property owners would be responsible for their portion of the sidewalk, the county still has jurisdiction over all public right-of-ways in the county.
The fines that property owners could incur if they disobeyed the ordinance could be up to $500.
George Erichsen, head of the countys public works department, said there were 17 miles of state-owned sidewalks in St. Marys and 51 miles of sidewalks in total.
Erichsen said the idea behind the ordinance was not to actively seek out violators but to act on complaints from the community.
It would not be our intention to have widespread enforcement, Erichsen told county commissioners. We wouldnt send out inspectors 36 hours after the storm.
Though all five commissioners voted to take the ordinance to public hearing, one said he would not likely vote for it.
Its just one more thing were putting on our taxpayers, Commissioner Mike Hewitt said.