New Ridgewood Leaf Collection Policy Vote Delayed

Residents, officials agreed the ordinance lacked enough specifics on who could put leaf piles where, as silence on safety impacts near schools.

The list of things residents must do to avoid facing harsh penalties for violating village's new leaf collection ordinance was lacking clarity, forcing the council to delay a vote on the new policy.

Addressing the council and top administrators, resident Boyd Loving noted there was a discrepancy between the language of the proposed ordinance and a flyer on the do's and dont's, sent with the latest tax bills.

The flyer stated that leaves could not be placed on the sidewalk or street on the following streets:

  • Linwood Avenue, E. Ridgewood Avenue, N. Van Dien Avenue, Pleasant Avenue (both North & South), Maple Avenue (both North & South), Glen Avenue (both East & West), Ackerman Avenue, Godwin Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, North Monroe Street

But according to the proposed ordinance, no property owner or landscaper on those streets can place the leaves "in front of their premises."

With 35 inches at the right of way, many homeowners would not be able to fit the piles, residents said Wednesday night. The village, according to Streets Department head John Spano, would vacuum leaves left on the property close to the sidewalk for those affected homeowners. But that isn't specifically in the ordinance, Loving noted, adding that the ordinance language lacks clarity on where those corner lots on those streets can place the leaves.

"As it stands now, I believe there are certain sections you will not be able to enforce because they're vague," Loving said. "They're not specific, it leaves a lot of interpretation up to the resident and it could be a problem once someone gets to court to try and enforce it."

Such language in the ordinance needed to be tightened up for legal passage, council members agreed. The council will be continuing the public hearing for a vote on Wednesday, Oct. 10. 

Other large roads like Grove Street, W. Ridgewood Ave and Franklin Turnpike won't be added to the list of streets with provisions, Spano said, because the homeowners place the leaves "so close to the curb" on the street that it doesn't impede traffic or present a safety issue.

"The problem areas are the streets we put down" on the list, he said.

Other homeowners on roads not specifically listed in the ordinance must place the leaves on the street and not the right-of-way, sidewalk or property for pickup.

The ordinance, however, did not address streets in school zones. Residents and officials have complained those areas become a legitimate safety hazard during leaf season. That too will need to be addressed in the retinkered language, officials said Wednesday.

"As [Village Manager] Ken [Gabbert] pointed out, this will be a policy we review and look at and make changes to after the season," Mayor Paul Aronsohn said.

The new ordinance stipulates those found putting the leaves out after the pickup or to have placed branches and other debris in the piles are subject to a minimum fine of $200, potentially as much as $1,000. Other penalties include a lien placed on taxes if the fee isn't paid and possibly community service (raking leaves? one resident asked).

One resident, John Capurso, of South Pleasant Avenue, said the village has overreacted to last year's freak October storm. The village is legislating a problem that doesn't really exist, he said. The core problem, he contended, was the village's lack of communication on what can be done and what can't be done.

"I think if you communicated with the residents over what they should and shouldn't do, I don't think there would be a lot of backlash," he said. "I don't think people would ignore your request to not put brush and tree limbs in the piles...they just don't know it wasn't allowed."

Gabbert said communication to residents through many mediums would continue as the policy evolves.

Capruso also suggested the village clear those "problem streets" first when they come into the area.

"If it's a safety issue and has to do with ths schools or ambulances needing access to public buildings, then those should be cleaned first," he said.

Leaf collection season starts on Oct. 22.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

News Man October 05, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Mike,... Deer steaks with mushroom gravy... that's a new one. On leaves however, I'm tying the leaves so that won't fall down and depending on my new landscape sevice guys that will gather and mulch them all and carry them away. Oh I love the Fall..........and pumpkin time.
James Kleimann October 05, 2012 at 08:42 PM
I fully expect a dinner invite, Michael.
Ridgewood Mom October 05, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Has the death penalty been ruled out, yet, for offenders?
Ridgewood Mom October 05, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Perhaps they could fine the trees, instead of you, if the leaves don't wind up the proper number of inches from the curb.
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