Threat of Imprisonment Removed From Proposed Leaf Collection Ordinance

Introduced leaf collection ordinance still has teeth, including a fine upwards of $200 to $1,000 and mandatory community service.

You'll still receive a hefty fine and perhaps even perform some community service work, but being caught disregarding leaf/branch collection laws in Ridgewood won't carry any jail time.

On Wednesday night, the Ridgewood Village Council formally introduced a leaf and debris collection ordinance initially containing a provision that would have allowed the municipal judge to remand violators to a 90-day prison sentence, as well as a hit to the wallet.

While a potential stay behind bars isn't going to happen after the council deemed it too "draconian" a penalty, residents may not want to test the village on this one – the ordinance still has sharp teeth.

If convicted of mixing branches and debris into the leaf pile and/or not cleaning up the mess in a timely manner, the violator is subject to a fine ranging from $200 to $1,000, an amount determined by the municipal judge.

Get caught and convicted on breaking the law twice? Watch out – those nabbed will have 48 hours to remove the evidence properly or pay the disposal costs the village incurred, as well as an additional "administrative" fee, up to $150. That cost would be tallied as a lien on the property, according to Village Attorney Matt Rogers.

A period of up to 40 hours of community service might also be required, the ordinance stipulates. 

The "tough love" approach seems necessary after a rare October snow storm created chaos and widespread anger in 2011, according to officials.

Thus far the threat of harsh punishment hasn't yielded compliance, according to Streets Department head John Spano. About 150 violators were issued summonses after last weekend's storm, he said.

"The DPW has kind of turned a blind eye to violations," said Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck. "It's absurd what people are getting away with."

Hauck cautioned it won't be easy enforcing the rules this year but is manageable so long as the residents know the village means business.

"I think the key is communication to the residents," she said. "It's just going to be a retraining period. This year is not going to be easy...it's going to be like being a strict school teacher for one year and everybody will be on board. If the ordinance has to be tough, I don't really care how tough it is."

"The residents want to comply," added a like-minded Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh, who called last year "a glitch". "I think that the residents are smart enough if we say we're going to enforce it, we start getting the tags out there...they're going to pay a fine."

Notification of the leaf policy will be coming out in the next few weeks through social media as well as in mailings to homes.

Leaf collection pickups begin on Oct. 22, three days after yard waste season ends.

Spano asked that residents not place pumpkins in the leaf piles, nor branches or other debris. It damages equipment and limits revenue from mulching leaves, he said.

Branches and yard waste can instead be taken to the recycling center during leaf collection season.

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.

dara brown September 21, 2012 at 11:07 AM
How about enforcing ALL of the ordinances on the books equally. Many intersections & sidewalks are blocked by overgrown shrubs and bushes, many structures violate the peeling paint ordinance, many residents have structures (massive kiddy playsets) on their property without the proper permits, many fences erected without permits,boats are parked on the property, etc etc etc. Apparently none are enforced unless you 'drop a dime' on the neighbor, and even then nothing happens.
AvgCitizen September 21, 2012 at 12:11 PM
To funny! Enforcement Haha. Just around my neighborhood I see 3 homes (minimum) that irrigate every day (including Mondays thereby contributing to the State fine which has to be paid by all taxpayers. One home that recycles nothing (increasing disposal costs and lost dollars from the recycle revenue stream) One that puts bulk garbage out 1 1/2 weeks early (always has bulk in front of their house). And landscapers and residents alike who dump leaves in the street (and huge branches) the day AFTER the street has been cleared. And not once in 15 years have any of these folks even received a warning let alone a ticket. Let’s not go nuts and turn every regulation into a source of revenue, educate with a warning first but keep a record and fine those who don't comply. A few scofflaws may not seem like a lot but I for one resent having ANY portion of my taxes having to be used to cover the cost of someone too lazy to recycle or who thinks their lawn is more important than mine.
jp1 September 21, 2012 at 12:19 PM
As i have said in the past Ridgewood does not enforce much of anything and probably never will.
Mark Stevens September 21, 2012 at 01:22 PM
It's all about the MONEY and nothing else.
Lisa Ertle September 21, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Ohhh...put the imprisonment part back in! Three square meals cooked by someone else, a shower, and time to read a book sounds divine. (Provided it's only the local jail).
Ridgewood Mom September 21, 2012 at 03:36 PM
How about we use torture? :)
Lisa Ertle September 21, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Hey...wait a minute there Ridgewood Mom---you might just be on to something. Is there room for a guillotine in Van Nest? A guillotine and so many new opportunities to eat cake here in the village!
Irene September 21, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Scofflaws should be tarred and leafed! Forget the feathers...better yet, how about a stock in the shape of a pumpkin in Van Neste Park?
Rose Boniello September 21, 2012 at 03:59 PM
The streets by the schools need to have more frequent pickups-- cars drive around leaf piles, kids jump in them, and the traffic caused is unreal. And snow removal needs to be enforced -- there are so many sidewalks covered in snow and ice days after a snowstorm-- dangerous!! Again, esp near the schools where there is high pedestrian volume. As residents we need to accept that these ordinances exist to keep people safe-- and to make a few extra bucks too!
Lisa Ertle September 21, 2012 at 04:06 PM
What a fabulous idea! Stocks! The offenders must also be dressed as Pilgrims for the month of November.
Oliver Train September 21, 2012 at 05:05 PM
That's really funny. Even better - dressed as a Turkey!
Boyd A. Loving September 21, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I'm betting the ranch that Ridgewood streets look as crappy this year as they have for decades. The Village Council has absolutely zero chance of affecting any change unless they get very serious about issuing summonses on a routine basis. And since they've already acknowledged there isn't enough personpower to issue summonses, get ready to dodge those massive piles of leaves once again.
RdgwdGRock September 21, 2012 at 06:10 PM
two words: conjugal visitation
RdgwdGRock September 21, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I was just drove around mid-day today, and plenty of big branches put out by the curbs; they are not cut-up and tied or put in bins per regulations. the village talks tough, but where is the enforcement?
longtimer66 September 21, 2012 at 07:14 PM
When you see this stuff, you need to report it. Sounds tattletale I know but it's the only way things are ever going to get changed for the better. I spoke to Streets today about some things I saw and they said others had been calling too. They advised they'd be sending out people to issue warnings on the streets they'd had calls about. On one street, I saw a landscape crew putting branches out. We pay for police to do routine patrols Village-wide, so why aren't they reporting stuff in the streets when they see it? Shouldn't reporting stuff like this be a part of the patrols? I'd really rather see the Street Dept staff focus on cleaning and maintaining the streets and the police handle reporting obvious piling of junk in streets as part of their drive-around patrols. What a concept, huh?
Mark Ruckhaus September 21, 2012 at 07:19 PM
The floggings will continue until morale improves. Geez, and I was hoping that leaf violators would be sent to some maximum security lockup, while the crooked politicians make tee times in country club prison. Those Ridgewood councilpeople are such a bunch of party poopers.
OHW September 21, 2012 at 08:52 PM
"Branches and yard waste can instead be taken to the recycling center during leaf collection season" (which lasts from October to April). What planet are these people on? Do they expect everyone to buy a truck? Are they smoking the leaves? Idiotic.
JP September 21, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Who's paying taxes here? Last time I looked it was the Ridgewood citizens. They work for the people, and the council should be reminded of that at every public meeting. Have them pick up ALL the debris.
ByeByeNJ September 22, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Or maybe compost at home... got 4 wheel barrels of black worm infested soil this year from last years leaves... also, if it's the city's tree on the easement and the leaves fall into the street in front of my house am I still liable? Oh... I smell law suits coming.... Oh well, guess I'll go downtown and dodge Jay-walkers and try and figure if the person at the corner is crossing, texting, turning tricks or just waiting for me to get closer to blot in from of me and dare me to hit them.... watch it! I could have a senior moment and forget which is the brake.... Well I have to go individually wrap, individually number each, attach Leaf Location ID #, and pack my leaves in a number <7> biodegradable box...
Dorothy September 22, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Matt September 22, 2012 at 08:53 AM
Maybe Ridgewood should refund a portion of property taxes and let the individual neighborhoods figure it out instead of setting a one size fits all strategy. And I'd love to know which clown suggested prison time for failing to comply with leaf rules.
John Hahn September 22, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Hey ByeByeNJ Seriously how big a composting area do you have for leaves? Do you mulch them to reduce size? I a have 2 pallet wide area but it would fill quickly with the leaves on our property. email me please DriveMeNJ@aol.com Thanks.
maureen September 22, 2012 at 11:25 AM
the recycling area closes promptly at 3pm . If you actually work , it is impossible to get there during the week . Why not extend the hours of the recycling center so people can actually go there ? Saturday's get booked very easily with kids' sports so extended weekday hours, or even one night open would make a difference.
longtimer66 September 22, 2012 at 02:18 PM
The "city tree" ByeBye mentions might actually already be yours. Many -though orig. planted by Village - were retroactively made yours some years ago. All on our street are like that. I think new "plan" is to make more trees yours too. Anyone know? To Maureen's point- very good idea! Open recycling some extended hrs. It will give people an easy way to take branches etc there. You don't need a truck. I don't have one, and I see many others there w/o trucks too. We've composted some leaves for years, seems to work well. We get a lot though-- too many to compost all. We bag the rest, otherwise even breeze from traffic (let alone any real wind) just blows them into everyone's yards. Common courtesy and not wanting to pick up same stuff over and over drove that choice. A few years ago, branches in street were hit by a truck and broke some car windows. If you look at Chap 275 on Village Code site, doesn't seem to say anything about jail time. Many other ordinances have sim. language. Chap 1 section 15 (and a few others) mention jail time-- but only for cases where other code sections do not prescribe other fines, etc. Not a lawyer but doubt jail ever applied to this at all, since Chap 275 notes specific fines and procedure for yard waste. Could not find any Chap 275-section 9A ref in the code mentioned in Council mtg. Chap 275 seems to end at Section 5. Maybe it's something new in proposed changed ordinance? No idea- anyone know?
Paul September 22, 2012 at 04:06 PM
WOW! I went in front of the Town Council Wednesday night around 11.30 pm to tell them about a town tree that is a major danger to not only our young children but also cars and the new $$$$ Asto turf field at Steven Field right behind the Ridgewood High School. Well folks its been my third time at the mike & I think since the Town Old Oak tree that has dropped large brances not only on the astro turf but also all over the road with no response, Maybe we the people should give the first ticket to Mr. Gabbert who by the way does not even live in our lovely town of Ridgewood.The dead town tree is at 60 North Irving St. Just so parents can warn their kids until it is removed!!
Dorothy September 22, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Anyone remember burning the leaves and twigs in a big ash can in front of your home? Maybe we can do that again...?
Anonymous September 23, 2012 at 04:05 AM
The biggest problem is the town not following the pick up schedule.
JP September 23, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Do what I've seen some other people do, put your twigs in your neighbor's leaf pile.
James Diorio September 23, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I agree, having lived in town for 18 years and the leaves have never been removed on time. My estimate is the town usually runs two to three weeks behind schedule. I suggest we take pictures with a date and time stamp of when we place our leaves at the curb to use as evidence of when the fines start flying.
Anne LaGrange Loving September 23, 2012 at 03:04 PM
JP - I love your bumper sticker. Dom Nizza and I (and billions of others) will be celebrating with you when Mr. Romney is trounced into oblivion in the November election!!!


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