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Yarmouth town council feels out pros and cons to front yard waste storage units

While Yarmouth town councillors agree there can be nice front yard waste storage units, there is a concern that changing a by-law to allow for these units to be the norm on all properties that not all units will be pleasing to the eye, or to the senses – particularly the sense of smell. TINA COMEAU
While Yarmouth town councillors agree there can be nice front yard waste storage units, there is a concern that changing a by-law to allow for these units to be the norm on all properties that not all units will be pleasing to the eye, or to the senses – particularly the sense of smell. TINA COMEAU - Tina Comeau

YARMOUTH, N.S. – After some community input and discussion, the Town of Yarmouth doesn’t look poised to allow solid waste storage units in people’s front yards.

It’s not that there aren’t tidy and attractive units, councillors say, but it’s doubtful everyone would adhere to same standards, which could create a smelly, ugly situation.

The town has been exploring whether there should be a bylaw change to allow residences to use their own front-yard storage units. Currently, green carts, garbage and recyclables can only be stored in a side yard or backyard and then brought curbside on collection days. 

The bylaw will come up for second reading at council’s Aug. 9 meeting. A motion made at a July 25 committee of the whole meeting recommends there be no bylaw change. The motion did not pass unanimously, as councillors debated whether the units are a good or bad thing.

At a previous public hearing the town heard from a couple of landlords who support the front-yard units and a citizen who had concerns. The town invited people to its www.getinvolvedyarmouth.ca website to weigh in with their thoughts, which were shared at the July 25 meeting. Of the 493 people who visited the site, 33 participated in the quick poll, with 55 per cent saying they were okay with front-yard solid waste storage containers and 45 per cent saying they didn’t favour them.

In the guestbook feedback the discussion swayed towards not allowing the units. While a couple of commenters said the units should be allowed as long as they are not overfilled and unsightly, others outlined concerns.

“Just got back from a place that allows it. Absolutely disgusting to have smelly, rotting garbage close to the sidewalks on otherwise beautiful streets. Ruined the pleasure of walking and exploring. Warm weather creates even more smell and rot,” wrote a resident. “Some people will not comply to guidelines and ruin a neighbourhood very quickly.”

A waste storage unit seen on the side of the street in a location in Yarmouth. TINA COMEAU
A waste storage unit seen on the side of the street in a location in Yarmouth. TINA COMEAU

Another resident said he’d experienced front-yard storage units near his home and they were a constant problem.
“The result was a bin that was overflowing,” the person wrote. “If they are overfilled or unsightly, correcting the problem will fall to town staff who already have more to do than they can easily manage. Litter bins at street side do not make our streets look inviting.”

Another person worried about dirty bins attracting rats and raccoons and noted they could also be a hazard in terms of creating blind spots for drivers.

“I think that the storage units would be okay if everyone would maintain them and keep them clean. However, not everyone respects their own property and I believe this would look bad for the town,” wrote another resident.

People can still share their thoughts on the website until council’s August meeting.

During the July 25 discussion Councillor Jim MacLeod said at first he was in favour of the units but now would rather leave things as is.

“I think it would be a difficult thing, and one more thing for us to enforce,” MacLeod said, saying he’s seen examples of the units in the town and county. While there are some good examples, he said, “It’s not a pretty sight in a number of cases.”

Councillor Wade Cleveland is in favour of allowing the units. He notes there are some beautiful storage units that people have and keep in good shape. He said enforcement would be important, though. If the units were allowed, he’d want to see strict regulations on their look and upkeep.

Examples of storage bins the town has displayed on its getinvolvedyarmouth.ca website.
Examples of storage bins the town has displayed on its getinvolvedyarmouth.ca website.

There are some places in the town where front-yard storage units are being used, but this is contrary to the current bylaw and those property owners have been advised of this.

“A number of them were removed over the last few months by the owners, but not everybody agrees that it’s not a good thing and so there is some anticipation of what is council going to do – are we going to change the bylaw or are we going to leave it the same?” said CAO Jeff Gushue.

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood has concerns and doesn’t think front storage units are the best idea for across the board.

“We’re in close proximity to our neighbours. We’ve got green bins out there. They smell horrific. And we have not just visitors, but we have residents going for walks and trying to enjoy the town,” she said. “I just think it takes away from everything we are trying to create.” She said not all residents take steps to lessen the odour from green carts, although she did agree that there are some very nice storage units. 

“The problem is when you allow one, you have to allow them all. Who’s going to judge what looks good, what doesn’t?” she said. “I live in town and don’t want to be driving up my street with a garbage disposal bin on every property.”

She worries garbage and smell would accumulate and that’s not fair to citizens, she says.

“There are some that are doing this very, very well,” she said, “but the danger in allowing it for everyone is the very reason why we have rules in the first place. It's for those who don’t know how to do it well, and that’s the shame of it.”

Councillor Clifford Hood had initially been in favour of allowing the units, suggesting they could be managed by means of a permit system. He said the units would be helpful for seniors and landlords. But after listening to the discussion and the mayor’s comments he had a change of heart.

“You painted a picture that changed my thoughts. As desirable as it might be for some of our responsible landlords . . . unless you can find a way to manage the irresponsible people I think we have to leave it the way it is.”

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