RALEIGH — You’ll soon have less time to leave your trash or recycling bins on the curb without facing a rebuke and a possible fine from the city.
Frustrated by the sight of empty garbage cans lining streets in his Southwest Raleigh district, Councilman Thomas Crowder persuaded his colleagues to crack down on chronic violators.
The trouble is most common in areas near N.C. State University filled with student rental housing, but it’s not just a student-driven problem, Crowder says. Many renters leave town on weekends without rolling back their cans, he said, and even those who stay home sometimes don’t bother.
“Nothing is getting the attention of these folks,” Crowder said in a recent committee hearing. “I could go through the whole district on a daily basis, but it’s not my job.”
The new rules, approved Tuesday by the City Council, shorten the length of time that carts, including recycling and yard waste containers, are allowed to remain on the curb. Under the current rules, carts can’t be out any earlier than noon the day before pickup and must be off the curb by 7 p.m. the day after they’re emptied.
The new timeline bars residents from taking their carts out earlier than sundown the day before pickup. Carts will have to be rolled back by sunrise the day after pickup.
Violators will get warnings followed by fines starting at $100. Tickets will go to landlords instead of tenants, a change intended to get the attention of property owners.
The city attorney must put the changes in writing and bring them back to the council for final approval.
To educate people about the stricter rules, the city’s solid waste services department will launch an education campaign with measures such as leaflets left at houses.
About half of the 1,500 violations issued since 2011 involved rental properties, according to city figures. Councilman Randy Stagner, who represents North Raleigh, said he gets complaints occasionally.
“For our neighborhoods, it’s more of a gentle, neighborly pressure applied for people to bring in their trash can,” Stagner said. “Councilman Crowder has more difficulty because of the transient population he has (in his district).”
Trade-offs in the budget
In budget talks this spring, council members will discuss adding more code enforcement officers to the solid waste services staff – an item likely to compete with many other priorities in a tight budget year. Each additional employee would cost about $55,000.
Currently, Raleigh has two enforcement officers responsible for container violations in a city of 420,000 people.
By comparison, Charlotte, population 750,000, has 40 inspectors, with eight assigned to container violations.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she’s not convinced that garbage can enforcement should take precedence over other personnel needs such as law enforcement.
Crowder was quick with a response. He said the city would need more police if neighborhoods slip into neglect and decay.
“If we lose the curb appeal, that’s what families moving into these communities look at,” Crowder said. “The wives in most cases look at this and say, ‘We don’t want to live here.’ It’s not fair to these fragile, at-risk neighborhoods.”