Changes in city code regulations regarding the use of tarps and the definitions of rubbish and refuse have been clarified, allowing Code Enforcement to start cracking down on violators.
Some major changes are coming to Plant City regarding the way things are stored on resident’s property.
City Commissioners agreed Monday evening to alter the usage regulations of tarpaulins, aka tarps, within the city limits. They also agreed to amend the definitions of refuse and rubbish, clarifying what does and does not constitute as each respective item.
“After Hurricane Irma in September 2017 the use of tarps proliferated to the extent that they have now become a major contributor to blight throughout the city,” Tray Towles, code enforcement manager, said. “Tarps designed for a limited or temporary use are now, in some cases, being used well beyond its intended lifespan.”
Towles showed a slideshow of images of bright blue tarps being strung across posts as pseudo fences, tied over boats and cars as coverings or across a landing as a makeshift carport. One of the biggest issues is the growing number of homes with tarps used to “patch” holes in the roof.
Directly following Irma many homes struck by the storm used tarps to act as a band-aid to their property while they acquired funding to mend the damage. However, a large number of properties never fixed the problem. Tarps can only be used for 90 days. Though it’s a year and a half later the same tarps remain, baking in the sun and becoming threadbare from Florida’s inclement weather.
One home in Plant City has a tarp with FEMA written in large letters across its covering, acting as a roof. One other doesn’t even have a real heavy-duty tarp. Instead it’s using a massive Publix banner to patch up its problems. Another followed the repurposing trend and is using the advertisement banner of an attorney to cover up quite a large section of its roof.
As if the impending home damage isn’t bad enough, many property owners are using tarps to cover up piles of garbage, refuse and rubbish. Mounds of the unmoving items lay stagnant in the yards for months and years. All it would take is one stray spark and suddenly the mounds become a massive fire hazard.
If someone wants to protect a boat or vehicle, they now need to use a fitted cover manufactured for that purpose and ensure the bottom six inches of the tires are uncovered and visible so Code Enforcement can easily see if the car is functional or not.
Code Enforcement has been fielding calls for years from concerned neighbors who worry about their hoarding counterparts, but without more direct definitions of what is considered rubbish and refuse they were unable to firmly say the “collections” were out of code.
After the passage of the new definitions the city will allow refuse to include “exposed salvageable materials” and rubbish was amended to “include metal, rubber, plastic, furniture, appliances, bicycles, vessels and recreational equipment.”
The storage of any garbage, refuse and rubbish is prohibited in Plant City when it is not being placed in an authorized bag or container for collection.
Everything from public health and safety to the general welfare of adjacent properties can be affected by piles of random items and with more concrete rules Code Enforcement can make sure residents are in compliance. Violators often lean on the excuse that what they’re storing isn’t trash, but rather meaningful goods. Clarified definitions will help prevent that excuse from continuing.
“The adage is ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,’ sometimes one man’s trash really is just his trash,” Towles said.
Towles said he knows some home owners ran into trouble with funding following Irma and clarified that Code Enforcement will not be simply slapping fines and violations on everyone who isn’t in compliance. He and his team plan to go meet with the homeowners to figure out what is going on and to inform them of the new change. They want to help and hopefully they’ll be able to get the ball rolling on getting these issues fixed.
Commissioner Bill Dodson said he is “amazed this problem has been accumulating over time.” He said he felt it could have easily been resolved a decade earlier, but is glad they now have the correct wording to ensure it does not continue to plague the city.