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Iowa City residents offer mixed views on potential waste-container rules

BY NICK HASSETT | FEBRUARY 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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After the Iowa City City Council deferred action on an ordinance that would require trash containers to be stored out of public view, locals have expressed mixed views on the issue.

The ordinance amends the housing code and solid-waste ordinance to require storage of residential solid waste, yard waste, and recycling containers to be located behind the front building line of a residential structure or screened from public view.

Nancy Carlson, a member of the College Green Neighborhood Association, said the issue was about people who didn’t have respect for their neighbors.

“Most people who live in homes take pride in their neighborhoods,” she said. “They put their trash out and bring it back in. But there are short-term renters here who are not interested in that.”

Carlson said the impetus for her decision to go to the city about the issue came on a Saturday when she went out and wrote down 25 addresses with garbage cans sitting in the front yard.

“It makes the neighborhood look like a slum,” she said.

The North Side Neighborhood Association was one of the neighborhoods that originally brought concerns about waste containers to city staff, related to the placement of trash cans and overflow issues.

“It was a combination of things,” said Mike Wright, the coordinator for the association. “Some people make it a routine of leaving their [waste containers] in the middle of their yard — that doesn’t do a lot for neighborhood aesthetics.”

Wright also expressed concerns about trash overflow, with trash being spread across yards and animals getting into containers.

City staff said the requirement would help neighborhood appearance, reduce trash issues, and support neighborhood stabilization.

However, Mary Knudson, the neighborhood representative for the Miller Orchard neighborhood, said she wasn’t sure if the ordinance was the right move for the city.

“My first reaction is that’s a lot of oversight,” she said. “On some people’s property [waste containers] are hard to have them not be seen from the street. Sometimes I have to have it in front with the snow. There’s a fine line that I don’t like with it.”

Jim Walters, a member of the College Green Neighborhood Association, thought the ordinance wouldn’t be able to suit all residents of Iowa City.

“They’ve got a vision of everybody’s situation being [the same], and they’re not,” he said. “One size does not fit all.”

Walters said the city-provided recycling bins were difficult to move around and that his property lot didn’t allow for them to be stored on the side. He was also concerned about how those with disabilities under the ordinance.

Walters also saw the issue as part of a trend to increase regulations.

“Iowa City has had a constant cascade of regulations; it gets to a point where there’s too many,” he said. “I don’t want the neighborhoods to look trashy or unkempt, but there are [other issues] that upset me more than this.”

But Carlson thought the issue needed to be addressed by the city.

“There are lots of ordinances [for neighborhoods],” she said. “If there are people living in our area not taking responsibility for their property and behavior, the city has to get involved.”

The council deferred action on the ordinance by a 7-0 vote at its Feb. 19 meeting after it became clear the council was split on the issue.

“I don’t see a great reason to move forward with a split vote,” Mayor Matt Hayek said at the Feb. 19 meeting.  “This clearly doesn’t seem like something we should be divided on.”

Doug Boothroy, the director of Housing and Inspection Services in Iowa City, said the city would contact neighborhoods around the city to get their input on the ordinance.

“It’s part discussion and part changes they’d like to see,” he said. “Their feedback might suggest change.”

Boothroy said the process could take another month at least and speculated that the ordinance may be back on the table in April, though no date has been given.


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