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In an abrupt shift, the City Council eliminated a rule it had approved just weeks ago requiring residents to wait until after sundown to roll their garbage carts to the curb.
The change came in response to a barrage of complaints from homeowners aghast at having to schlep outside in the dark to haul trash down the driveway.
It was the most controversial element of a larger policy intended to crack down on empty trash cans left out for days or even weeks.
Councilman Thomas Crowder called for tougher enforcement, saying he was frustrated by the sight of cans lining streets in his Southwest Raleigh district. Crowder called it a quality-of-life issue that could cause neighborhoods to decline.
The initial set of rules went too far, said Anne Dahle, 80, who lives in West Raleigh’s Highland Gardens neighborhood.
“I have a long driveway, and it’s not paved,” she said. “It’s just an opportunity for anybody to fall. We’re happy to put our trash out...if we don’t have to do it in the dark.”
That’s a reasonable request, said Councilman Russ Stephenson. The council voted 6-2 to approve a policy that does not include the after-sundown rule.
“I’ve just heard from too many citizens who said this (changing the times) is not improving our quality of life,” Stephenson said.
The city will stick with the old rule that says 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.
Other parts of the new policy remain.
For example, the city can now hand out fines to landlords in addition to tenants, part of an effort to hold property owners accountable for the behavior of renters. About half of the 1,500 violations issued since 2011 involved rental properties, according to city figures.
The city will also end garbage collection service for townhouse communities with more than five attached dwellings. The change, which affects only new development, means these communities will switch to Dumpsters with private collectors.
In budget talks this spring, council members will discuss adding more manpower to the solid waste services staff. Currently, Raleigh has two code enforcement officers responsible for container violations in a city of nearly a half-million people.
Crowder said he was disappointed with the scaled-back version. “We’re still going to have issues, and I hope the council will look at more strict enforcement,” he said.
This is a case of misplaced priorities, says Michael Lancaster, 71, a resident of Greenwood Farms near Duke Raleigh Hospital.
“There are bigger things the City Council people should be worried about – like the outlandish traffic in this town,” Lancaster said. “I don’t know how much grief they got, but they would’ve gotten a whole lot more if they tried to enforce (the rule).”
As long as they are reasonable, stricter guidelines make sense to G. Wesley Williams, a 92-year-old resident of the Glen Eden neighborhood off Glenwood Avenue.
“It doesn’t look good for those cans to stay out there,” he said. “There’s nothing about those cans that is beautiful. The streets are for traffic.”