Since last weekend's snowstorm, Carl Darling has cleared the sidewalk in front of his garden nursery business on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda four times. Each time, he says, Montgomery County snow plows have ruined his work.
But it was not until yesterday morning that Darling lost patience. After a plow had pushed snow to a depth of about three feet on his sidewalk, he said, a county policeman arrived to issue him a $50 ticket: failure to clear a commercial sidewalk of snow.
"I've been here 20 years, and everybody knows that I'm the biggest snow shoveler in the Washington area," Darling said. "And they can't do this to me."
Darling, police said, was in violation of a new county law banning snow on commercial sidewalks. The law went into effect Monday, in the middle of the storm, shortly before the first snowplows hit the streets.
"I think I understand what the county is trying to do," Darling said. "They are trying to make the commercial owners make up all the money they lost on clearing the streets.
"Well, that's fine," Darling said. "Except that I'm mean enough and ugly enough that I'm not going to let them do it."
Darling was not the only business owner cited. Bill Goundry, who owns an Amoco station next door to the Sheriden Garden nursery on the 7800 block of Old Georgetown Road, said he arrived at work Monday to shovel out all three driveways and the sidewalk of his property. On Tuesday, he said, he had to borrow a jeep to get into his station over the barrier created by snowplows.
On Thursday, Goundry said, he got a ticket. "There was no way I could have cleaned my sidewalk after that snow plow," he said. "It would have taken a powerjack."
Goundry and Darling began their campaign against the county's plow-and-ticket procedures by pointing policemen yesterday toward two county properties -- a branch library on Arlington Road and a parking lot on Old Georgetown Road -- whose sidewalks had not yet been cleared.
The policemen said they could not ticket the properties, Darling said. They were not commercial properties.
"There's no way I'm going to clean my sidewalk again now," Darling said. "I've had it. I'm going to get old man Gilchrist down here to plow it."
Darling will probably not get to see Charles Gilchrist, the county executive, but he will have his day in court. According to his ticket, he will have his chance to prove what the county's snowplows did to his sidewalk before a judge -- on June 8.