In a move likely to upset half the town and send up cheers in the other, the Ceres City Council voted 3-2 on Monday to relax the municipal code to make it no longer illegal to store garbage cans in public view.
The Ceres Municipal Code – in the process of being updated by the council – for decades has included a section requiring residents to store their waste wheelers behind a fence or screened from public view on non-collection days. Designed to improve the aesthetics of residential neighborhoods, the section has been ignored by an estimated half of all residents and generated lots of complaints to city code enforcement officers. Enforcement was limited because of staffing shortages but the city added an officer to help with the load last year.
But on Monday the full council moved to relaxing those standards. Vice Mayor Linda Ryno and Councilman Channce Condit defended the existing law as improving the looks of neighborhoods. However, Mayor Chris Vierra, and Councilmen Mike Kline and Bret Durossette said they have no problems with cans being stored next to a house or garage.
The mayor said the code should be revised so that waste wheelers are kept off of sidewalks and driveways “but I’m okay with them up against the home.”
Councilman Mike Kline puzzled the audience when at first he suggested he had changed his mind about supporting a change but then flipped when it came time to vote.
“I was approached many times about my opinion of this matter and with that being said, the direction that everybody gave me that it needs to be left at the clear standards we have, that it must be behind a screen and away from public view,” said Kline earlier in the meeting. “So that’s what was expressed to me because of the way I stood behind. So I can agree … that it should be out of public view.”
But when the time came to vote, Kline flipped 180.
After a long pause, Kline stated he would stick with his “first thought” that it’s okay to keep cans “against the house.”
“I believe it should be maintained and kept out of public view,” insisted Ryno.
Durossette said “it’s going to be a little bit overkill if we make them put it in the back,” despite the fact that the law is already in effect. He said some houses don’t have enough room on the side yard to store cans and that it could present a problem during a fire or another emergency. Ryno said the newer homes have side yard setbacks wider than five feet and during any emergency they could wheel the can out of the way.
“True, we do have a lot of waste wheelers out there now but that’s because it hasn’t been enforced for so many years because we didn’t have enough people in code enforcement,” said Ryno. “Now we have one more person and I believe if they do a quadrant by quadrant (sweep) they could get it all manageable again.”
She said to change the law because there’s so many violations it’s the city’s fault for lack of enforcement.
“I’m fine with the way it’s written,” said Condit.
A number of residents spoke against changes.
“If you start enforcing it word’s going to get around and people are going to start putting their cans behind the gate on their own,” said Ceres resident Lee Brandt.
John Warren also faulted the city for letting the violations get out of hand. He recommended more aggressive enforcement with warnings.
“When we go out and show property if garbage cans are out front … when you have a whole neighborhood where all their garbage cans are out front, it really doesn’t look good and it may have an impact on property value,” said real estate agent Renee Ledbetter. She argued that cans should be behind a fence or next to a house’s side.
“People need to take pride of ownership, not only in their properties but in our community and maybe that’s the message we should be sharing,” she added.
Don Donaldson said he didn’t care what was decided but wanted all enforced fairly.
In other action, the council decided against an outright ban on pit bull breeds of dogs.
Mayor Vierra said it’s the owner, not the dog, that can be the problem in many circumstances.
“I don’t think we up here should be saying because there’s a violent pit bull that we should ban them all,” said Vierra. “I think each owner needs to be responsible for their own pet.”
None of the council members supported a ban.