Tampa may fine people who blow yard waste into the street

- Tampa City Council is one vote away from creating a fine for people or businesses which dispose of grass or other yard debris into city streets.

The fine would be the first real move aimed at enforcing a city code that's been on the books for years, according to Jean Duncan, Director of the city's Transportation Services and Stormwater Department. "This is basically putting some teeth into our ordinance."

Duncan says the fine would help fight a problem that is highlighted by the recent flooding in much of South Tampa.  She explains the debris makes its way into storm drains, clogging pipes and contributing to the drainage issues.

Businesses would get a warning for a first offense witnessed by code enforcement, then be subject to a fine ranging from $75 to $450 based on the number of repeat offenses.  There won't be a warning for individuals, but Duncan says code enforcement will only go after the biggest violators.

"We are not going to be heavy handed in enforcing this change in terms of getting the poor 14 year-old mowing his parents' yard and blowing the leaves into the street. It's more of the bigger infractions that we're going to go after," said Duncan.

Peter Scholl, owner of SOHO Landscape, says his crews always dispose of yard waste per city code, and violators give his industry a bad name.

"You certainly don't like to see someone else making their mess, someone else's mess," said Scholl.

The fine proposal still needs to survive one more vote at city council on September 17.

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