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Trash talk left up to neighbors

ANNA BLOOM Of the Record staff

If creatures knock them over, that’s one thing, but just because a trash can looks unpleasant on a street, does not necessarily mean a city needs an ordinance, according to the Park City Council and Public Works.

At Thursday evening’s council meeting, council members determined that neighborhoods should take care of their own backyards when it comes storing garbage bins. The city decided neighborhoods need to self-police their area when cans appear to crowd the street, over-flow, or looked as though they haven’t been moved for a while.

After six complaints primarily from Old Town residents, the council asked Public Works Director Jerry Gibbs to look into drafting an ordinance to keep trashcans out of view.

Other ski areas do have trashcan ordinances, he notes. In Vail, Aspen and Sun Valley, residents are required to take cans off the street after pickup because of the threat of bears, raccoons and other wildlife dumping contents out on streets, according to Gibbs.

"I was talking to a man from Aspen and he said a bear actually got into his kitchen," he said. In fact, the city requires Main Street business owners to keep their trash hidden until 10 p.m., and remove their trash before 10 a.m. for pedestrians’ health and safety, Gibbs says.

"What was happening was that the next morning, business owners were discovering cans had been knocked over and spilled by the bar crowd and it wasn’t conducive for pedestrian sidewalks," Gibbs explained.

Residents on Woodside Avenue, Park Avenue and Empire Avenue rarely have wild animal trash concerns, he observes, and staff determined in its recommendation "in Old Town, the cans do not represent a health hazard." For Old Town and the rest of Park City, trashcan removal tends to be an aesthetic issue, Gibbs concluded.

If the city had opted for a trash removal ordinance, it would likely be difficult to enforce. In the first place, few homes in the historic district have alleys or gangways to hide their garbage, Gibbs noted. Secondly, unlike cars or bicycles, cans are anonymous and unregistered, and in the wintertime, garbage companies ask residents to line their cans up on one side of the street, notes Gibbs. Without the ability to assign a can to an address, issuing tickets to violators would be next to impossible unless the city wanted to begin to label 600 to 700 cans in Old Town, or 3,500 to 4,000 citywide, said Gibbs. Park City Code Enforcement Officer Michelle Downard said an ordinance would require the city to hire new officers to police the streets. The staff’s report estimated the fiscal impact of the added enforcement would cost the city as much as $4,000 a month in fiscal impacts.

Gibbs would rather communities become proactive, and deliberate trash problems amongst themselves first, and ask for city intervention later, he said. "I think it’s important that the neighborhoods get involved with coming up with a solution, as opposed to the city saying that you can’t have the can out there and ticket them," he explained. "I would agree that putting trash cans out is not the most attractive thing, but again, I think it’s one of aesthetics, and something they should fix themselves."

Councilman Joe Kernan expressed an interest in labeling bins with addresses sometime in the future. He’d like to see the streets cleaner, he said.

"At some point, I’d like to solve the problem. I think [trash bins] look really bad. With all the attention we pay to keep things beautiful, people should do something about [their bins,] rather than leave them out year round," he argued.

The rest of council appeared to side with Gibbs.

"Lets all just be neighborly and take five minutes to move a can," Councilwoman Candy Erickson said.

Councilman Jim Hier suggested the city could confiscate cans that sit out on the street for too long, if anything.

"I’m still trying to figure out the magnitude of the problem it seems like it’s a uniquely Old Town issue," he said.

Gibbs admitted there were no "formal complaints" about trash left out on the street. The list of grievances he compiled mostly came from residents who approached members of the council or city staff individually.

Mayor Dana Williams concluded that he did not see trash bins on residential streets as an "insurmountable issue," but assured that council would keep the item on its radar screen.


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