Roeland Park administrators say requirement to screen trash bins is too difficult to enforce

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By Holly Cook

Roeland Park’s current policy regarding the placement of trash and recycle bins is too strict to enforce, city officials said during Monday’s City Council governing body workshop.

The troublesome part of the code is the requirement that bins are screened so they are not visible “from any street or roadway,” said assistant city administrator Jennifer Jones-Lacy. Many residents making efforts to screen their bins still violate the stringent requirement because their containers may be noticeable from the street at various angles.

“If we were to take it based upon the letter of the law our code enforcement officer could spend pretty much all of her time regulating trash container placement,” Jones-Lacy said.

City staff proposed amending the code so violations only include bins that are visible when looking straight on from the street. The amendments define what a proper screen is and provides certain exceptions for the disabled and elderly. Residents with irregular lots could also request an exception as the configuration of these homes may make it more difficult to comply.

Trees, bushes and shrubs that do not shed their leaves in the winter would qualify as an allowable screen. Screens made out of material that “obscures the view of at least 60% of the container” such as lattice would also qualify. Chain link fences without barrier weaving, air conditioning units, tarps and flower pots were listed as unacceptable screens.

The updated regulation would allow the city to issue a $10 penalty if the violator does not fix the issue within 48 hours.

“We want to… improve the aesthetic of our community without being too punitive,” Jones-Lacy said.

Councilmember Michael Rhoades agreed the code should be more lenient than it is currently written. Rhoades noted the prevalence of single-car garages in Roeland Park makes it more difficult for residents to store their bins.

Councilmember Becky Fast voiced concerns with the difficulty of accessing fully screened bins when ice and snow were on the ground. Rhoades suggested the amendment include an exception for these occasions.

The council generally agreed that bins placed in backyards should be considered sufficiently screened.

City staff said they would continue to work with Councilor Rhoades and Councilor Sheri McNeil in finalizing changes to the code before bringing it back to the committee.