Kent property owners who leave heaps of garbage on the curb for days are going to face fines for not picking up their trash.
Kent City Council voted Wednesday to amend its solid waste ordinance (section 521.08 of the General Offenses code) to add fines for property owners who violate the ordinance by leaving garbage at the curb several days in advance of their scheduled pick-up.
Previously under the ordinance, city health inspectors send a notice by certified mail to a property owner asking them to clean-up garbage on their property after a complaint has been filed with the Kent Health Department.
Now, if the property owner does not clean up the garbage within 48 hours of receiving the notice, the city can fine the property owner $50.
The fee escalates to $150 for a second violation within a 12-month period. And a third violation carries a fine of $250.
Kent Health Commissioner Jeff Niestadt said the fines add teeth to the law so health inspectors can enforce it — and hopefully see results.
"We think this is fair," he said. "It’s very similar to other fee structures in college towns that deal with this."
The fines will take effect when council takes its final vote on the issue at the October regular council meeting.
The fees stemmed from a discussion council had in August, when Kent sees a jump in such violations as new tenants move in to rental houses around the Kent State University campus.
At-large Councilman Roger Sidoti said the goal is to get property owners and their tenants to take personal responsibility for their properties.
"We’re trying to get people to stand up and take responsibility," Sidoti said. "And if it costs them more money because they want to ignore it, it costs them more money."
Councilwoman Tracy Wallach said she doesn't think the fines will stop people from breaking the solid waste law because each time a violation notice is sent, via certified mail, the property owner has 48 hours to clean up the garbage before a fine is even issued.
"They’re going to get a warning, and they'll clean it up. Get a warning; clean it up. It's not going to change anything."
Council discussed the idea of making fines automatic if a property is declared a nuisance under the city's nuisance property ordinance. Under that ordinance, a property is declared a nuisance if it has one or more of the city's listed nuisance violations within a six month period. Once declared a nuisance, property owners can be billed for city personnel costs related to the violations.
Councilman Garret Ferrara tried to make the fines automatic for properties declared a nuisance but ultimately the proposal did not get enough votes to pass.
Kent Law Director Jim Silver said Ohio case law supports granting a property owner a 48-hour window to address the violation.
"I do like to give due process to property owners," Niestadt said.