During a Mobile City Council subcommittee May 7, commercial real estate developers and other professionals told council members the language of the city’s litter ordinance wouldn’t be effective without a “common sense” approach to enforcement.

The public services subcommittee — made up of council members Fred Richardson Joel Daves and CJ Small — held the meeting with members of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration to discuss proposed changes ordinance as it relates to commercial businesses.

The main agenda item was whether businesses would be required to use enclosures or “gravity locks” on their dumpsters to prevent overflowing trash. Committee members also addressed who is responsible for the trash around a commercial real estate properties and what an appropriate penalty for violating the ordinance should be.

District 1 Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson, Council Vice President.

District 1 Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson, Council Vice President.

At the request of councilman John Williams, the subcommittee included in its recommendation to the full council a provision requiring enclosures or “gravity locks” for a dumpster only if the business responsible has been ticketed for litter violations more than once.

“John said he believes violators are the ones we should go after,” Richardson said. “We shouldn’t be going after people who never broke the law. If we go in and cite them twice for violations, they would have to conform (with these regulations), and I can’t say I disagree with John.”

Marl Cummings III, of Cummings and Associates, said he didn’t think enclosures were the answer to the city’s litter problem, but he did agree it was a serious issue. Despite sharing their concern, he said he and others industry were still a little “gun shy” after the city’s initial rollout of the ordinance in October 2014.

“Regardless of how it’s worded, the only way it’s going to work is your people in the field reasonably enforcing it with the cooperation of the people who are the tenants at these properties, the owners and their representatives,” Cummings said. “If there’s a problem, pick up the phone and call us like the city used to do. My problem is with the hamfisted approach the city initially took with this ordinance.”

Cummings said when the litter ordinance first went into effect last year, his business was inundated with tickets for violations for litter caused by tenants or by other residents using a commercial property’s dumpster illegally.

Dianne Irby, executive director of planning and development, and David Daughenbaugh, deputy director of property maintenance, attended the meeting on behalf of the Stimpson administration. Their departments will be charged with overseeing and enforcing the litter ordinance, and both agreed with Cummings that the ordinance should be enforced “reasonably.”

Irby said enforcement would be stepped up after property maintenance officers working in specific areas have the opportunity to get to know both residents and business.

However, Richardson said any efforts from the city to work with commercial real estate or any other business shouldn’t diminish the responsibility commercial properties owners or tenants have to remove litter and other trash from their premises regardless of how it originated.

“All of what you’re saying will be taken into consideration, but it’s not going to stop us from doing what we need to do to keep our city clean,” Richardson said. “If somebody rode by my house while I was down here and put a sofa in my yard, you know who’s got to get that sofa off the yard? Me. I’ve got to it off. If they drop one at the shopping center, y’all got to get it off.”

Other changes passed on the council included a reduction in the initial fines. When the litter ordinance first debuted last fall, violators received a $250 ticket out of the gate plus court costs. Irby said after looking at other municipal policies, a lesser ticket might be “more in line.”

In the changes recommend to the council, only “knowing violations,” will merit a $250 fine and all other offenders will receive a $100 fine.

“This is not a revenue generator for the city, this is about trying to get a message out that we’re serious about litter,” Irby said.

The final change proposed by the subcommittee is a require for a label on commercial dumpsters at multi-tenant complexes that “identifies legally whom the property maintenance officer could ticket” in the event of a violation.

All three changes to the ordinance were proposed by the Stimpson administration and will be presented to the full city council tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.