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City calling on businesses for help with litter control

By DAVID TEWES
Nov. 15, 2010 at 5:15 a.m.


Property owners or lessees failing to comply with the city's storm water discharge or health and sanitation ordinances can be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor.

The fine can range from $500 to $2,000 per day, depending on the nature of the offense.

City ordinance highlights

It shall be unlawful for any owner of any lot or parcel of land within the city to permit junk, brush, trash, debris, rubbish, stagnant water or other objectionable, unsightly or unsanitary matter to accumulate or be present.

Every person owning or leasing property through which a watercourse passes shall keep and maintain all parts of the watercourse within that property reasonably free of trash, debris, excessive vegetation and other obstacles that would pollute, contaminate or significantly retard the flow of water. The owner or lessee shall maintain existing privately owned structures within or adjacent to that watercourse, so those structures will not become a hazard to the use, function or physical integrity of the watercourse.

The owner or lessee shall not remove healthy bank vegetation beyond that necessary for maintenance, or remove that vegetation so as to increase the vulnerability of the watercourse to erosion.

The property owner shall be responsible for maintaining and stabilizing that portion of the watercourse that is within the property owner's property boundaries to protect against erosion and degradation of the watercourse originating or contributed from their property.

Rosanna Shoemake with the Victoria Mall said she doesn't mind the city's recent push to make businesses more responsible for litter.

"I think it's everyone's responsibility to pick up trash and clean up trash, including the customers that enter businesses," she said. "We've been doing our part all along, so there's not really anything extra I feel like we need to do."

City Council Member Tom Halepaska has called on his fellow council members to join with Keep Victoria Beautiful to visit businesses and remind them of their litter control responsibility.

He said the city is attempting to take a soft approach to the problem of plastic trash bags, dirty diapers and plastic foam containers before the code enforcement division steps in. Otherwise, the mess ends up on other property or in waterways that drain into the Guadalupe River and San Antonio Bay.

"It has everything to do with keeping it out of the river and bay," said Joni Brown with Keep Victoria Beautiful. "It also has everything to do with keeping up the community pride and responsibility."

Halepaska said each morning someone from his shop is assigned the task of cleaning up trash on his business property and he hopes other businesses will do the same.

"I don't sell beer, but I've got beer cans," he said. "I don't sell poopie diapers, but I've got poopie diapers."

Yet, Halepaska said he makes sure they are cleaned up because that's just what responsible businesses do. It's also required by ordinance and that includes keeping such drainage areas as creeks and outfalls adjacent to the property clean.

"The litter they are picking up may not be generated by their business," Brown said. "But it is on their property, so they have to pick it up."

Brown said businesses along the north end of North Navarro Street have been contacted. "That's just the tip of the iceberg."

She said the city intends to contact businesses along the rest of Navarro and other thoroughfares, including Rio Grande Street, Laurent Street and John Stockbauer Drive.

Halepaska said while the city isn't trying to be heavy-handed about its approach, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have imposed the legal requirement on cities with populations of 50,000 or more.

Plus, it's just the right thing to do, he said.

"There are times when you go by there and there is just junk all over the lots and they haven't picked it up," he said. "Why are we as citizens having to go around and look at that trash?"

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