City Council approves new trash fine

Daniel Moore

Kent residents who leave a mess in the street could soon be paying for it — but not as much as some members of Kent City Council want.

Under a plan approved Wednesday by the council’s Health and Safety Committee, the city will notify property owners with excessive trash by a letter which, once they sign, starts a 48-hour window to clean up. Those who fail do so will be fined $50, $150, $250 for first, second and third offenses within a year.

The overarching goal of adding the fines is to solve the city’s “chronic littering problem,” city officials said.

“We wanted to be sure there was enough teeth in the plan,” Health Commissioner Jeff Neistadt said.

Some council members, however, felt the plan’s should be more strict.

Ward 1 Councilman Garret Ferrara proposed using the city’s existing nuisance ordinance — commonly applied to noise violations — to designate properties with too much trash as “nuisances.” This, he said, would give the city the ability to fine immediately, without wasting time and money with the 48-hour period.

Ward 6 Councilwoman Traci Wallach agreed with Ferrara’s proposal. Residents should be penalized, she said, for the costs of time and staff needed for every call in addition to the fees.

“Once they clean it up, they have a clean slate again,” Wallach said. “There should be a consequence for the staff having to go out repeatedly.”

Law Director Jim Silver cited Ohio case law — past court rulings in the state that set a legal precedent — have supported a 48-hour window to take care of the violations, and Neistadt acknowledged the need for the window.

“I do like to give due process to property owners,” Niestadt said.

The proposed change in the original proposal to add a nuisance designation split the committee in a 4-4 vote, falling short of the five votes needed for approval. The committee then unanimously approved the original fines.

Although she voted for the fines, Wallach said she thinks the policy doesn’t go far enough.

“I don’t think this is going to change anything,” she said. “We’re going to be back here in six months talking about this again.”

Councilman-at-large Robin Turner said the original plan for fines goes far enough.

“I think that stands on its own as a punishment for as change of behavior,” Turner said. “Adding something else on might not be in the best interest of what we’re trying to do.”

Councilman-at-large Roger Sidoti said the goal of the amended policy is to encourage residents to take personal responsibility.

“I think it just makes good sense,” Sidoti said. “If it costs them more money to ignore it, it costs them more money.”

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected].