The Mount Airy Town Council adopted on Monday an ordinance that would allow the town to fine those who discard yard waste or blow lawn clippings on public sidewalks and streets.
Discarded waste and clippings, the elected officials said, are washed into the storm sewer system and bog the filters down, subsequently requiring extra maintenance and repairs.
Ordinance 2019-01, first proposed by Councilman Jason Poirier, would establish the nuisance behavior as a municipal infraction, change the enforcement authority from the code enforcement staff to the Mount Airy Police Department and allow the law enforcement agency to warn or fine violators.
The lawmakers voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance at the Monthly Mayor and Council Meeting March 4.
“It’s relatively a large problem,” Poirier told the Times after the meeting. “By the time that it is notified to the town that it is a problem, to then send a code enforcer out there, you’re talking hours if not the next day or so. By that time you have weather impacting the grass clippings that are on the streets that are already going into our water and sewer system.”
Poirier explained that Mount Airy Public Works staff routinely roam the town, but do not have the authority to enforce any ordinances. The ordinance would enable public works staffers to contact the town’s police force to levy fines or warnings — depending on whether it’s a first offense or recurring problem.
The town reduced the amount of time a violator has to remove the clippings from the street or sidewalk from 24 hours to four hours, at which point if the clippings remained on the public areas a municipal infraction would be imposed. Council President Peter Helt proposed the four-hour window at the elected officials’ February meeting.
They included Helt’s amendment “so we get [the waste] before the weather impacts it,” Poirier said, “whether it’s another rain storm or the wind or something like that blows it into the sewer system.”
Municipal infraction citations for nuisances, which the violations in the ordinance are classified as, carry a $100 fine for the initial offense and $300 for each repeat offense. The police, Poirier said, will have the discretion to impose fines and warnings.
The ordinance details myriad types of yard waste, including stones, ashes, rubbish, dirt, filth, slops and vegetable matter, among many others, as as nuisances.
Even recycle bags, Poirier said, if left unattended on the curb for weeks can break apart and send debris into the water system.
“The town has a priority to keep its infrastructure clean and operating to a standard,” he concluded, “this ordinance helps with that.”