With Ann Arbor City Council’s porch couch ban already in effect, city officials are giving University students an opportunity this weekend to get rid of upholstered porch furniture before the city starts issuing fines.
The city is sponsoring a free upholstered furniture collection event at the corner of East University Avenue and Oakland Avenue, about one block south of East Quadrangle Residence Hall, which will run from noon to 5 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday.
The porch couch ban, which officially took effect earlier this month, was passed in response to a fire that ravaged a State Street house in April and claimed the life of Eastern Michigan University student Renden LeMasters. Officials believe a couch on the porch fueled the fire.
In an interview yesterday, Ann Arbor Fire Marshall Kathleen Chamberlain said the event will provide a way for University students to discard their porch couches before the Ann Arbor Fire Department starts cracking down on violators.
Though the couch ban officially went into effect on Oct. 2, Chamberlain said the AAFD needed an event like this to help enforce the ban.
The event will “give people the opportunity to comply voluntarily and discard the upholstered furniture,” Chamberlain said.
“We don’t want to have to enforce this (ban),” she said. “We want it to take care of itself.”
Chamberlain added that AAFD hasn’t issued a single warning or fine since the ban officially took effect in order to give residents time to get rid of the upholstered porch furniture.
However, Chamberlain said the department would likely start issuing warnings soon after this weekend’s collection.
Under the terms of the ordinance, residents found in violation will first be issued a “pre-citation” after which they will have a “reasonable” period of time to remove the furniture, Chamberlain said in a Sept. 21 article in The Michigan Daily.
If violators choose not to remove the furniture during that time period, they will face a fine of up to $1,000, Chamberlain said in the article, though she hopes it never reaches that point.
“Never has enforcement been the priority,” Chamberlain said in yesterday’s interview. “It’s always been about education and compliance.”
In a separate interview yesterday, Sumedh Bahl, the city’s community services area administrator and an active official in enforcing the ban, echoed Chamberlain’s comments about education over penalization.
“Our goal is not to penalize,” Bahl said. “Our goal is to address safety, and that … is the course we’re taking.”
Residents who leave furniture before or after the official collection times will be subject to fines, according to a city press release.