Hide Those Garbage Cans!
By Andrew Richter
Brooklyn Park residents will need to keep their garbage cans fully hidden after a proposed change to city code failed on second reading. After voting 6-1 to approve the first reading of an amended ordinance that would have slightly relaxed the rules, the city council reversed course June 10 and voted 5-2 to keep the ordinance as it is.
City code prohibits storing refuse, yard waste, recyclable materials or waste containers in a front yard or a side yard adjacent to a street. It also requires all such materials and containers be “fully screened from view from all front and adjacent side streets and from the front yards of adjacent properties.”
Bushes and trees don’t count as screening, so all cans stored in a side yard must be hidden by “structurally sound opaque materials, such as a fence or other materials designed for this purpose.”
Last time I checked bushes and trees do hide things…..
The proposed amendment would have removed the screening requirement. Residents still would not have been allowed to store garbage cans in a front yard or side yard adjacent to a street. If they stored them in a side yard not adjacent to a street, however, no screening would have been required.
Staff brought the issue to the council’s attention based on resident complaints about the current code. The council discussed amending the code May 6 and voted to approve the first reading of the proposed ordinance change May 20.
Councilmember Rich Gates, the lone dissenter in the initial vote, was joined June 10 by Councilmembers Peter Crema, Bob Mata and Mike Trepanier, as well as Mayor Jeffrey Lunde.
Gates had originally expressed concern about eroding the quality of neighborhoods. “I drove through other cities, and I see garbage cans everywhere – I mean everywhere – in a yard, and it looks bad,” he said May 20. “It’s not that hard to screen. It’s really inexpensive, and it really does improve the look of the neighborhood.”
Really? If you want to improve the neighborhood, how about NO MORE HIGH DENSITY HOUSING!!!
Crema said June 10 that he had voted in favor of the first amendment to keep the conversation going but he said his constituents swayed his opinion.
“I’m one that believes typically less rules are better,” he said. “But 10-to-1 my constituents and people that have emailed me have said, ‘Don’t change it. We don’t want to see garbage cans laying in the street. We don’t want to see them out there for two days.’”
Mata said communication from his constituents was also the deciding factor for him. “I have just gotten a lot of emails that say, ‘Please don’t change it,’” he said. Lunde said he had also received many emails and phone calls. “It does contribute somewhat to an image,” Lunde said. “I would agree there’s no magic bullet on an image, but I think an image is made up of many little steps, and this is one of them.”
Mike Opat must have called……
Lunde said if this were a new ordinance, he might not support it, but since it has existed five years, most people are used to it by now.
Jordan saw it differently.
“Our image is not because we have a couple garbage cans out there or that people can see them on the side of a garage,” he said, arguing if that were the problem then cities that allow garbage containers in public view – such as Champlin, St. Louis Park and Bloomington – would have the same image problems.
According to Jordan, code enforcement told him the city spends about $75,000 annually on enforcing the garbage ordinance. He hoped removing the screening requirement would free up code enforcement staff to do what he considered more important tasks.
Thank you Mr. Jordan….finally some common sense!
Jordan said he also got emails from constituents who didn’t agree with him.
“I received the same emails you guys did, about half a dozen or so,” he said. “But I’m here to tell you I had at least 50 people last summer tell me the opposite, and that was face to face.”
Knight agreed. “When I was door knocking this was … a top complaint that people had,” Knight said. It didn’t make sense to her why it would hurt a city’s image to have garbage cans stored neatly beside or even in front of houses when businesses often have garbage cans and dumpsters in public view.
“I think garbage cans are a way of life,” she said. “If there are garbage cans that have teeming garbage outside of them or they’re left out for days, then we deal with that issue and not make blanket legislation.”
Trepanier said he was struggling with the issue.
“I voted for this last time, but I also made a comment that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at this point,” he said. “And I think until we actually vote, I’m not 100 percent sure.”
Although the screening requirement will remain in place, the council plans to revisit details of enforcing the code. Currently residents receive a warning for the first offense. If the same violation occurs within two years, they are fined. Property Services Director Keith Jullie said his staff is willing to work with people for reasonable extension and exceptions, as long as they call in advance.
Yes government must be informed first!
Most council members seemed to favor the idea of changing enforcement policy to allow one or two violations a year without a fine. The issue is expected to come back at a future meeting.