Starkville residents see too many trash bins in city

By ROBBIE WARD

Daily Journal Starkville Bureau

STARKVILLE – John Vinicki has seen more dumpsters than he can count in the 25 years he's lived here, and he doesn't like it.

“I'm a person who likes good aesthetics and certain things have them,” said Vinicki, a retired engineer. “These Dumpsters are functional, but they're not appealing.”

Vinicki and other citizens have grown tired of looking at the bulky, metal bins filled with garbage as they walk or drive almost anywhere in the city.

“You can't help but to see them,” he said. “You need to do something that would hide them from view.”

City leaders are working on ways to enforce parts of the landscape ordinance that requires refuse areas, including Dumpsters, to be hidden from city streets.

Adopted in 1999, the ordinance has strict rules for refuse areas, but less than half the city follows the code. The code also requires non-complying businesses and apartments to do so within a year.

Little publicity and spotty enforcement are cited as reasons for local failure to comply with the ordinance.

The ordinance says that all refuse areas will be completely screened from the street and from adjacent properties by a solid wood or masonry fence at least 6 feet high and by natural plants or trees of equal minimum height. No refuse receptacle is to be allowed in the public right-of-way.

From surveys sent to area businesses, Starkville's Superintendent of Sanitation Sharon Boyd found that 134 of 259 aren't complying with the policy. Anyone driving along almost any Starkville street with commercial or rental properties will see that for themselves.

University Drive, one of the most trafficked streets, showcases a big, green, rusty trash bin facing the street at Bennington Apartments.

At a Board of Aldermen meeting in October, Planning and Zoning Commissioner Lynn Wampler read a letter expressing her disgust at so many visible trash bins. Wampler asked that fines be levied against businesses that continue to ignore the ordinance. She also asked the city to send letters to everyone out of compliance with the policy.

Ordinance not enforceable?

Doug Devlin, Starkville's public services director, said no such letter has been sent because the city is considering amending its trash-bin policy. Devlin said it may be asking too much to require a screened area on four sides of a dumpster and plants or trees around it.

Last week city officials discussed the ordinance, but Devlin couldn't say when it might be amended.

At Bennington Apartments, manager David Norman said he didn't think looking at a wooden fence or a green trash bin would make much of a difference for people passing on the street. He also said he saw no practical remedy that allows his apartments to comply with the ordinance.

“I can't move the Dumpster to the back of the apartments because the (garbage) trucks would tear the parking lot up,” he said.

He said another alternative – having apartment residents leave trash bags along the street – would be unsightly.

When any amended ordinance is approved, businesses and apartments will have plenty of time to comply, Devlin said.

“I think we're just going to have to be flexible,” he said. “There's a lot of small businesses that would really hurt if we forced them in a short period of time to conform with it.”

City officials also are aware of extra costs to comply, particularly since they'll have to spend more, too. Some city trash bins aren't in compliance, and extra labor will be involved to open gates around trash bins throughout the city.

“It will either mean we'll have to add extra people to help the driver open these gates or (current employees) will work overtime,” Devlin said.

Shelly Johnstone, a consultant hired to help update the city's comprehensive plan, said during ward meetings throughout the city she regularly heard complaints about trash bins being too visible. She said one solution to ensuring all businesses and apartment complexes comply with the trash-bin section of the landscape ordinance would be to arrange meetings to discuss the problem.

Johnstone said Starkville's refuse ordinance is progressive because it “goes back to those who are already in the community,” asking for total city compliance instead of just new developments.

Contact Robbie Ward at 323-9831 or robbie.ward@djournal.com