Nebel: Intentions Misunderstood Behind Proposed Garbage Bin Ordinance
By Brandi Makuski
Ald. Cindy Nebel says she believes her proposed amendment to the city’s trash bin ordinance has been blown out of proportion — and taken out of context.
Nebel, who is serving her first term representing the city’s 3rd District, proposed in October what she believed were minor, clarifying changes to the city’s ordinance related to garbage and recycling bin storage. She was surprised, she said, by the widespread objection, but believes it’s due to misinterpretation by the media reporting the story.
“It’s a problem right now, as written,” Nebel said of the ordinance in a phone interview with the City Times. “I feel like this has really gotten out of hand because that point is not out there — it is, right now, pretty restrictive, as written.”
Current city ordinances address garbage bins in two places, and Nebel said they contradict each other.
Chapter 7, governing health and sanitation, reads in part:
Garbage and recycle carts shall be set out on the scheduled collection days at an easily accessible place on the premises at ground level as directed by the board of public works. The carts shall be easily accessible during winter months. Do not place carts on snow banks. Carts must be placed with the arrow facing the street and must be placed four (4) feet away from obstacles such as parked cars, mailboxes and utility poles, including other carts. Improperly placed carts will not be collected. Do not over stuff your carts, over stuffed carts do not allow for gravity to aid in the collection process and your carts may not completely
empty. Carts set out for any collection shall not be set out more than 13 hours prior to the day of collection and shall be removed no later than midnight the day after collection. Except when set out for street collection, no containers of any type shall be located at any time in any front yards or corner side yards. No garbage or recycle carts of any type shall be located so they are visible from the front of the property, except in cases of scheduled pickup.
Chapter 21, which covers property maintains, reads in part:
Every owner or occupant of a premise or premise unit shall store and dispose of all his rubbish in a clean, sanitary and safe manner. Recyclables and refuse shall not be visible from the street and recyclables, refuse, or their containers cannot be stored between any structure and the street, except on collection days.
In October, proposed changes included removing the last three sentences shown from Ch. 7, and adding to Ch. 21 that “carts cannot be stored next to, on, or under front porches,” and also “specifies that carts must be stored with the lids completely closed in order to prevent them from being filled beyond capacity, causing the lids to be pushed open.”
City leaders at that time opted to postpone a vote on the proposed amendment, and Nebel herself asked for another delay in November, saying “misinformation” in the media could have unfairly swayed a vote by the City Council.
Nebel said she disagrees with including the word “structure” in the ordinance, arguing it could be defined as any number of buildings, such as a garage or shed.
“My hope was to change one thing, so [the bin] wouldn’t be at the doorstep because of one word: ‘structure’, because [the bin] could be out to the step,” Nebel said. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe it should be at the front steps, but I don’t say [bins] shouldn’t be visible, and that’s what our old ordinance in our other chapter says.”
City leaders last dealt with the issue about 18 months ago, when multiple residents who were storing their bins in front of their garages or homes came forward to appeal ordinance violations they’d received, arguing their lot sizes limited storage options.
Community Development Director Michael Ostrowski said the city knew changes were in order for several ordinances. When Neighborhood Improvement Officer Mark Kordus was hired in February, one of his assigned duties was combing through the city’s property maintenance ordinances to look for inconsistencies, redundancies and outdated information.
Ostrowski believes the conflicting language in existing ordinances was likely added about a decade ago, when the city switched to uniform garbage carts. Chapter 7 wasn’t a primary concern for the city, he said, because “Chapter 7 is not enforced by the city; it’s enforced by the county health officer, so that adds another level of complexity.”
But the majority of the complaints his office takes regarding garbage bins, Ostrowski said, relates not to the location of bins but overflowing garbage, or bags of trash being stored next to, instead of inside, the bin.
“Sometimes you miss something when you’re adding to ordinances,” Ostrowski said. “The easiest way to address this is to put it in one section, to remove that contradiction.”
Proposed changes to many of the city’s ordinances will come before the City Council, Ostrowski said, sometime after the New Year.
A new rough draft of the garbage bin ordinance was completed Wednesday afternoon, according to Kordus. While it still requires internal approval before coming to the Public Protection Committee in December, he thinks it’s “very reasonable.”
“It isn’t overly onerous, and most people are already in compliance,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal with any ordinance, is compliance.”
Nebel said she’s spent months researching the city’s ordinance, comparing the city’s with those in other municipalities. She hopes to make a positive impact, but is concerned about being misunderstood.
“I saw inconsistencies and problems with clarity,” she said. “I went from there to just going and researching it and found there were two different ordinances that said two different things.”
“People look at me like I’m trying to roll over them,” she said. “I feel like I’ve always been for the community as much as possible; this is just an inconsistency I felt I could change to make things clearer for the people who live here.”