City cracking down on wayward cans – sort of

Sean C. Morgan

The city of Sweet Home has urged residents to get their trash cans out of the public right-of-way after trash pickup and had mixed results.

The city’s Code Enforcement Office recently sent letters to 85 residents, mostly in the Avenues, along Elm Street and nearby streets.

The right-of-way includes sidewalks, beauty strips, parking lanes and travel lanes.

Code enforcement personnel took a look at areas where they had received complaints three full days after trash pickup, said Community Development Director Carol Lewis, who supervises code enforcement. “Basically, they were just leaving them out there. You’re not supposed to store personal goods on the street.”

Technically, she said, even vehicles may not be stored in the right-of-way for longer than 48 hours.

Most of the problems have been in the parking lanes, Lewis said. A few residents were storing their cans in the middle of the sidewalks and a few were using beauty strips.

Code Enforcement has had residents complain about the trash cans, Lewis said, and then, when the city mailed the letters in March, people complained that they received the letters.

“The number-one complaint, I would say, were people who had them in the beauty strips,” Lewis said. That’s also the most unclear when it comes to rules. It’s a gray area. Storing garbage cans in the sidewalks or parking lanes is clearly a problem because it impedes traffic, and the rules about it are clear.

The city does have authority in the beauty strip, Lewis said. Realistically, the council would have to pass an ordinance to prevent the use of the beauty strip to store trash cans.

City officials drove around last week to see what was going on, and they still found trash cans in the parking lanes, Lewis said, although those may have been on property for which residents didn’t get a letter.

The letter was primarily educational, Lewis said, and the city is not planning to issue citations.

City staff looked at Strawberry Heights first, Lewis said. They found just one house with cans stored in the right-of-way. The rest were in the Avenues.

“It was interesting,” Lewis said. “The next week, there were like six instead of 35 in the first neighborhood I double checked.”

Lewis cautions that the rules also apply to other items, such as basketball hoops.

Traffic and pedestrian safety and access are legitimate issues, she said, but she doesn’t know if the city will make a concerted effort to take on everything that shows up in the right-of-way, like the basketball hoops.

The Code Enforcement Office also is working on the annual problems with tall grass.

“We’re gearing up for grass,” Lewis said. “We’re getting a lot of complaints from people about grass.”

It’s more than 2 feet tall in some places, Lewis said. The law requires grass to be kept under 10 inches.

The city is publishing the annual warnings that it will cut tall grass if owners do not and then bill the owner for the cost plus an administrative fee. Those notices have appeared in The New Era for the past two weeks.

The city begins mowing tall grass after the state declares the beginning of fire season, which is usually around June 15, Lewis said. It will only cut grass after it has issued notices – “unless we have a dangerous situation.”