Snow Ordinance FAQs

Arlington County’s snow removal ordinance requires all Arlington property owners, occupants, or persons in charge to clear public sidewalks adjacent to their property of snow and ice within a designated time period. Read more information on the ordinance.

Minimum level of snowfall

Q. At what level of snowfall does the ordinance kick in? In other words, does the ordinance take effect when a certain number of inches (of snow) falls?

A. The ordinance goes into effect whenever snow falls in Arlington; there is no minimum amount of snowfall.

Physically unable to comply

Q. What if I’m physically unable to comply with the Ordinance?

A.  All property owners should make every effort to maintain clear sidewalks adjacent to their property. The ordinance contains exemptions for individuals who are physically incapable of complying with the requirements (including those with disabilities and over the age of 65).

The County will not be pre-qualifying people or keeping a list of people who are unable to comply. Prior to issuing citations, County staff will make every effort to contact owners to determine if they are exempt. If the unlikely event that you are exempt (and staff fails to reach you), and you do receive a citation, merely provide information about your exemption.

To assist homeowners who may need extra help, the County is working with civic associations to harness volunteer efforts.

Away during a snow storm

Q. Would the County fine someone who was away during a snow storm?

A.  Yes. During the winter season – and particularly if severe weather is forecast – you’ll want to make arrangements for someone to clear your sidewalks in your absence… much as you would arrange to have your grass mowed or your mail picked up.

Report a sidewalk

Q. How do I report a sidewalk that hasn’t been cleared?

A. If the sidewalk is still not clear after 24 hours (or 36 hours, depending on depth), please alert the property owner, as appropriate. Not everyone may realize that we have this Snow Removal Ordinance.

Also, to make a report to the County, please use our convenient online snow reporting form.

Cleared snow plowed back onto my sidewalk

Q. I cleared my sidewalk, but then VDOT or the County came along and plowed snow back onto my sidewalk. Do I have to clear the sidewalk every time? Will I be fined even though it’s not my fault?

A.  All property owners should make every effort to maintain clear sidewalks adjacent to their property. The ordinance contains an exemption for snow that is redeposited on the sidewalk as a result of “government action.”

Following a storm, VDOT and County crews are trying to plow roadways quickly and efficiently and this may result in some snow being pushed onto sidewalks that had been previously cleared. You may find it easier to clear your sidewalk several times during a storm… or wait until the storm is over.

Keep in mind that one of the last steps in any snowplowing operation is to plow the edges back and clear the road as wide as possible to allow for future snow storage. This standard operation may result in the placement of snow at the end of your driveway and onto your adjacent sidewalk, which is an unavoidable consequence of snowplowing.

Several feet of snow

Q. What if we get another Snowmageddon with several feet of snow? Are you still going to require snow removal within 24 hours?

A. The County ordinance requires that property owners remove snow or ice accumulations of:

  • Less than six inches: within 24 hours after it stops snowing
  • Six inches or more: within 36 hours after it stops snowing

The depth and timing is determined at National Airport, per National Weather Service.

The Arlington County Manager has the authority to extend time frames and suspend enforcement of the ordinance during extreme weather conditions and will take all factors into consideration.

36”-wide sidewalk path too wide

Q. The 36”-wide sidewalk path seems excessive. Why so wide?

A. Though a narrower path might accommodate a single individual, a clear, three-foot wide sidewalk path will accommodate a range of users that might need a little more room to maneuver, such as wheelchair users or a parent pushing a stroller or walking with a small child. Enforcement will consider actual constraints, such as a sidewalk width of less than three feet or other physical barriers that prevent achieving a three-foot width.

36” width is not wide enough

Q. The 36” width is not wide enough in heavily traveled commercial areas. Why not wider where warranted?

A. A clear, three-foot wide clear path was determined to be sufficient to accommodate a wide range of users. Commercial property owners are encouraged to clear sidewalks to wider widths where possible and to make clear paths to transit stops.

Corner property owners

Q. Do corner property owners need to clear the front and side sidewalk areas?

A.  Yes, as well as clearing access to the corner so that pedestrians can safely cross the street.

Can’t put snow onto my property

Q. What should I do if I literally can’t put snow from my sidewalk onto my property?

A. While the ordinance doesn’t prohibit you from shoveling the snow onto the street, it’s best (if at all possible) if you could place it on your property. This helps the snowplows in their efforts to clear streets. In cases where it is not possible to put snow onto your own property, please use your best judgment. The priority is to provide safe pedestrian pathways.

Snow from cars parked in street

Q.  My car is parked on the street and I need to push the snow off the car. Will I be fined if I push the snow onto the street?

A. No. The Ordinance prohibits you from moving snow from your private property (e.g., your driveway) onto public property (e.g., the street). Since your car is on public property, it’s OK.

Neighbors helping neighbors

Q. How can the County facilitate neighbors helping neighbors? How can I help?

A. You can volunteer to help! We are working with civic associations and other community groups to promote neighborhood sidewalk snow clearing efforts.  The effort brings together local community leaders and neighborhood volunteers to increase community involvement, assist elderly neighbors or neighbors with disabilities, and facilitate winter weather preparedness. Register through the Disaster Volunteer Registry or contact your civic association to find out how you can help your neighbors.

Environmental concerns

Q. Should the County be promoting alternatives to ice-melting chemicals?  I’m worried that people are using products that may harm the environment.

A. The ordinance states that “… if the (snow or ice) cannot be wholly removed, shall apply thereon sand or other proper substance so that such sidewalk shall be safe for public travel.” Through our environmental outreach programs, we promote safer alternatives and reduced uses of chemicals when possible.

Office complex parking lot snow

Q. I manage a large office complex. Where am I supposed to push the snow from the parking lot?

A. You should identify a spot on your property for snow storage … and not push it onto public property (e.g., street/sidewalks), as that is now illegal, as it inhibits our ability to ensure public safety. It’s a Class 4 misdemeanor.

Qualified exempt small business owners

Q.  I’m a small business owner … and I qualify for exemption from the Ordinance. Do I still have to clear the sidewalk?

A.  Commercial property owners are expected to comply with the Ordinance. Snow clearing should be part of basic business operating plans.

I don’t have a sidewalk

Q.  I don’t have a paved sidewalk in front of my house. What does the ordinance require of me?

A.  The Ordinance requirements are for paved sidewalks. However, in the interest of being neighborly and helping to keep our community safe and walkable, it would be great if you could do what you can to clear a walkway.