Suburbanites cry: Don’t tread on me, or my trash bin

Stand up for your dumpster!

In my neighborhood, like quite a few Twin Cities suburbs, it is illegal for the trash and recycling toters to be visible to anyone from the street, except on collection day. It’s not enough to drag them back to the side of the house, or even put them behind a fence; they have to be screened.

That’s if you don’t choose the option of storing it in your garage, which no reasonable person who’s ever smelled trash in the summertime would think of doing. Monday is our collection day. We’re not allowed to put them by the street for pick-up prior to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Most of us, at least in my neighborhood, have adopted a “come and get us, coppers” attitude and, so far, we’ve not been ticketed.

But two homeowners in Burnsville fought back. Criminal charges against Scott and Mary Lundquist of Burnsville have been dismissed by a Dakota County judge.

The problem was exacerbated after the Lindquists and a few other families got notices about their violations, and then were assessed subsequent “reinspection fees” of $110, $110 and $180.

Mr. Lundquist, as it turned out, is an attorney.

“I’ve lived in Burnsville since 1981,” he tells Sun This Week. I basically grew up out there. I was embarrassed by this whole event and very annoyed. It thought it was a classic example of government getting too involved in our everyday life.”

Scott Lundquist said he never kept his yard-waste bin in the garage because “it stinks.” He said he kept it behind a shrub tree by the side of the house, but, at one point, it got blown out into the yard.

It was first seen by a city inspector Jan. 30. The first letter, from inspector Ted Oakland, was sent to the Lundquists Feb. 1.

A city court filing in the criminal case includes four letters sent to the couple. Three also cite outdoor storage of the extension ladder, which Lundquist said came from his mother’s house after she moved, and other items, including a parts washer cited in one letter. He said he didn’t have a place for the ladder in the garage (where it is now stored) and set it alongside the house next to a parked car.

“If you knew it was there, or if you looked at our house with binoculars, you could see this ladder,” Lundquist said. “If you knew it was there, you could probably keep picking it out.”

A judge ruled that the city’s ordinance is too vague and enforcement too arbitrary.

A City Council member, however, insists that “neighborhood appearance” was the number one complaint she heard when door-knocking during the last campign.

  • Judith

    If yard waste “stinks” that’s a cue to compost it! Find an out of the way location in your backyard, make a wire enclosure 3 feet across, drop your yard waste in it. In a few months you will have nice crumbly compost to put on your flower or vegetable garden. So easy.

    • It’s not yard waste (I didn’t write the headline), it’s household trash. Some people have toters for yard waste ALSO, but the ordinances don’t distinguish between the two. What stinks is the household trash in a warm garage.

      BTW, I love composting. But the “you’ll have it in just a few months” thing, I’m convinced is worthy of a Snopes entry.

      • If you are an *active* composter, who turns their pile regularly and makes sure it has enough water and good mix of browns and greens, it does break down in just a few months.

        If you are a lazy composter like me who just tosses yard waste and food scraps in the bin, it can take up to a year to fully break down. To learn more, see http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/view-document.html?gid=11381

        • I’m somewhere between the two. I add the layers, I water it from time to time, I turn it once a week in the composting bins our county environmental program gave us a few years ago. And I wait…for a long time.

          But I’m not the type that spends the holidays hanging out with the compost bin or making it an issue in a custody dispute.

          • There you go, then. Show it some love. Maybe bring a radio out in the yard and play some Current for it? 🙂

          • Jack

            Bob – you need more worms! We have an open air compost box that does pretty well – it takes a while to break down but the resulting “soil” is like natural Miracle Grow.

          • Kassie

            I’m asking for worms for Christmas. I want a basement composting setup!

  • Nikki

    This is extreme, to be sure, but I can see the point. I live in a multi-family home and most weeks, my neighbors leave their recycling bins strewn across the front yard days after they’ve been emptied. Would be nice if they would put them away in a timely manner.

  • John Peschken

    On the street where live in Maple Grove, we got a letter from the city reminding us of the city ordinance requiring trash bins to not be visible from the street except on collection days, and that tickets would be issued in 30 days. Frankly, I had been noticing all of the trash containers that were left out by the curb for days and sometimes all week. All of the trash cans really just made the street look like nobody cared. I’m glad the city stepped in.

  • David

    I live in St Paul. Its nice to have an alley and to not have to worry about dragging a big bin to the end of the driveway every week.