The city of Ann Arbor is cracking down on residents that litter and leave trash on their front yards. The stepped-up enforcement could cost violators up to $1,000 in fines, and some students feel that they are being targeted by these rules.
Several ordinances in the city’s Solid Waste Management code were amended in 2002 and 2004 as part of Mayor John Hieftje’s Clean Community Program. The amendments, which included a substantial increase in fines and stricter enforcement guidelines, “were largely addressed at keeping unsightly debris and buildup of trash off the yards,” Councilman Michael Reid (R-2nd Ward) said. “It’s very consistent with what many communities have.”
Though Reid said the ordinances are applied uniformly throughout Ann Arbor, saying, “I don’t believe it’s applied (only) in certain areas or communities,” Councilmember Robert Johnson (D-1st Ward) conceded that the initiative “was probably geared towards rentals.”
Business junior Jason Hahn is one of several students voicing concerns that the Ann Arbor Police Department may be targeting students in off-campus housing when issuing citations for trash violations. Hahn said his residence on Hill Street has been ticketed three times this semester, each citation issued after a Michigan football game.
“They come around on Saturdays and basically look for students with trash on their lawns,” he said.
Though Hahn said Ann Arbor should be kept clean, he said the AAPD failed to give students sufficient time to clean up their lawns before issuing a ticket.
“(My) house will have a prefootball party, we’ll have some trash on the front lawn and by the time we come back, we have a citation,” Hahn said.
Hahn described the residual trash on his lawn from pregame parties as a substantial amount consisting primarily of empty beer cups and several garbage bags.
He added that there was also a desk and a television on his lawn when the first ticket was issued.
Many of the tickets written this month for littering and messy front yards have been issued during football games, said Joe Champagne, AAPD community standards supervisor. But he denied that the enforcement of the ordinances targets students.
Twenty-three infraction notices were written out this month, according to Champagne.
The fines for leaving trash on yards increase incrementally with each additional infraction. The first offense warrants a civil fine ranging from $100 to $250, the second offense can cost up to $500, and violators are fined between $500 and $1,000 for each additional or subsequent offense within a two-year time period.
The Clean Community Program requires that both the landlord and tenant receive a warning notice by mail or at a conspicuous place on the property if their front yards do not meet the city’s standards. The forewarned parties are given 24 hours to clean the property; failure to remove the clutter or debris from the front and rear of the property results in a hefty fine.
If the waste or debris is considered a public health hazard, the city has the right to dispose of the materials, and the property owner is billed for all costs incurred by the city – including labor, equipment, material disposal and overhead. The trash violation tickets are issued to the property owner, though lease agreements often transfer the civil infraction fees to the tenants.
The Solid Waste Management code has 14 principal ordinances prescribing the general maintenance of property and garbage, among them a rule that solid waste and solid waste containers that are collected curbside not be at the collection point for more than 24 hours before or 12 hours after the designated day of collection.
Despite the costly consequences of tailgating, Hahn vowed to continue hosting parties on his lawn.
He added that he and his housemates were “not trying to do anything malicious” and said the AAPD could improve its procedures for maintaining a clean community.
“Maybe there could be more warnings given, or perhaps the police could come and talk to us about (the Clean Community Program ordinances).”
Though Hahn said “issuing fines isn’t the right way” to go about encouraging a clean city, the AAPD’s stricter enforcement of the city’s ordinances is achieving some level of success in changing residents’ habits.
As Hahn put it, “We’re going to have to start cleaning.”