June 9, 2023

Revised Dumpster Ordinance Now in Effect

Anyone who’s ever heard a dumpster being serviced knows how loud and disruptive it can be.  Now, imagine being jarred awake in the dead of night by a dumpster being banged against the ground just beyond the fence outside your bedroom window.  For an unlucky few, whose homes back up to commercial or institutional properties, this has been happening more often of late, and presents a serious quality-of-life issue.  And it has highlighted the need to revisit our dumpster ordinance, which hasn’t been updated in over 30 years.

At the vast majority of locations with dumpsters around town there generally haven’t been any problems.  Where there have been, such as described above, one should hope a quick phone call is all it would take to achieve voluntary compliance.  But unfortunately it hasn’t been that easy.  Not for lack of trying, as city staff have been responsive to resident complaints and have attempted to work with the offending businesses and their servicing companies on a solution.  In some cases that hasn’t been enough, however, and enforcement of our existing ordinance has proven challenging.

Specifically, Sec. 16-22(a) provides that “[n]o person, corporation or other entity shall service a dumpster” during restricted hours, but then subjects to enforcement as a misdemeanor only a “person permitting or assisting the servicing of a dumpster within [those] hours ... or employed by an entity [so] permitting ... and having ... knowledge” of the violation.  Similarly, Sec. 16-27 extends enforcement to “[a]ny persons or other entity permitting, assisting, or having knowledge of a” violation.  So what about the person actually driving the truck (if they can even be located), or their employer?  And for other persons or entities, requiring proof of knowledge as an element of the offense creates an additional hurdle to enforcement, beyond the basic elements that may already be difficult enough to establish.

Our newly revised dumpster ordinance, adopted last month, cleans all that up by clarifying in Sec. 16-22(a) that the servicing itself is enforceable as a misdemeanor, and that its applicability extends beyond “[a]ny person” to “[a]ny person, corporation or other entity.”  Permitting or assisting a violation is still covered in Sec. 16-27, but without a knowledge requirement.  These revisions give staff more options in issuing and prosecuting citations.

Other amendments include changing dumpster servicing hours, previously 7:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m., to 8:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. (full disclosure:  I voted to make it 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., same as construction working hours, but I was alone on that vote); requiring dumpsters be covered, secured to prevent leakage and enclosed to keep animals out; updating the language and minimum size of warning signs (concerning servicing hours and unauthorized entry) to be affixed at the opening of every dumpster enclosure; and specifying that the fine of $200 per violation is the minimum, not maximum fine.

The requisite legal notice period having now passed, the revised ordinance goes into effect today.  Again, we’d prefer through education and direct contact with businesses and institutions that they’ll voluntarily comply, but for those recalcitrant few who remain unwilling to work with us staff are fully prepared to issue citations and enforce the law.  Report violations to Development Services, or after hours call the police department non-emergency line, (713) 668-0487.