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Garbage problem on FMB forces town to address issue

March 31, 2009

The Town of Fort Myers Beach recently mailed a letter to real estate agencies with rental properties on the island and is expected to send out another in the near future to all businesses and condominiums on the Beach who are not in compliance with the property maintenance section and the town's maintenance requirements of Section 6-11 of the Land Development Code.

Town Manager Scott Janke formed an ad hoc committee on solid waste problems in March to create ways of solving trash problems raised in a story by the Fort Myers Beach Civic Association newsletter, Tidelines.

The ad hoc committee, which includes chairman Lee Melsek, Bill Van Duzer and Kathy Holmes, wrote the notices regarding the requirements to all violators.

The letter to real estate agencies was mailed Thursday, March 26, according to interim Community Development Director Frank Shockey. The local civic association's survey found that some rental agents for weekly rental homes were allowing garbage to be placed out on the street days before scheduled pickups.

"When tenants leave or when the cleaning people leave after they've cleaned up, they leave the garbage out for pickup," said Shockey. "But that's typically on a weekend and the pickup day is not on a weekend. The ordinance says you're supposed to only leave the garbage out 24 hours before and not more than 24 hours after pickup. There's sort of a structural problem with that arrangement."

Shockey explained the content of the letter.

"The letter suggests various alternatives as to how people can comply with that," he said. "They can have the cleaning people bring it to a central location like the rental office and store it there until the garbage pickup or they can go to Veolia (Enviromental Services) and have a separate pickup day which would coincide with the day that the cleaning people finish. Various things that would result in the garbage containers not laying out there for three or four days on end and getting knocked over by the racoons."

According to Melsek, the Tidelines survey also revealed 54 businesses and condos along the island had exposed Dumpsters which violated the law that requires them to be shielded from adjoining property and from the streets.

Melsek said the ad hoc committee was asked to write a letter to businesses and condos that are in violation of the town's garbage ordinance and to give them 30 days notice to correct the problem.

As of Tuesday, March 31, the letter to businesses and condos in violation had not been mailed. Shockey, who said the town manager reviewed both letters and made revisions to make sure they were tactful, was unsure when the town would send out the second letter.

Shockey explained the screening issue involving the town's trash receptacle maintenance code.

"There's a separate problem where people have containers that are not movable," he said. "The land development code in the section of property maintenance - which is the same sort of area of the code that it says you have to mow your lawn and not let the grass grow too long and you have to keep your house painted and not let the siding fall off - says that nonmovable containers are supposed to be screened from view. It's pretty absolute about this.

"It also says that if you use a fence or a wall that screens it from view, you have to comply with the fence height limitations. A fence or wall can only be up to 42 inches high.

Shockey said the screening issue letter "mentioned the possibility that the code enforcement process could result in daily fines."

The ad-hoc committee also recommended that the law be amended to require lids on all garbage containers and cans. Shockey was asked to write the amendment.

"That's part of issue with the property maintenance section about the nonmovable and movable containers," said Shockey. "It doesn't provide for anything to say 'you have to have a lid on your garbage can.' Obviously - even if you put the garbage cans out 24 hours before pickup time - that's plenty of time for the raccoons to get out there and knock it over.

Shockey pointed out the letters are not intended to tell people that they are "in violation from a code enforcement perspective, but it is a nature of a warning."

"We're trying to get people to pay attention that there is a rule and it could affect them if they are not careful," he said



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