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Tougher Code Regulations Coming Soon

The Gulfport City Council voted to require residents to move trash cans back from the curb and to ban indoor furniture from being put outside.

The first of several ordinances drafted to improve the city's "curb appeal" was discussed and voted on during Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

It was the next step in an effort to "increase the aesthetic appearance and curb appeal of the property," as noted in the agenda packet.

Though both ordinances were only up for first reading, Council members brought up important points and discussed their intent in moving forward with tougher, more restrictive ordinances.

The Council is addressing code enforcement and nuisance ordinances two at a time.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, during the first meeting of 2012, four council members tackled ordinances that:

  • State where residents can store trash cans;
  • Prohibit indoor furnishings from being stored outside.

Trash Can Placement

Ordinance 2012-01, which affects trash can placement, was passed with a vote of 3-1, with Council member Sam Henderson casting the only no vote. Mayor Mike Yakes was absent due to illness.

This ordinance requires residents to remove containers "from curbside of the property on the day of collection and place in the side or rear yard and behind the front of the primary structure."

Several questions and concerns came up during the discussion. Council member Jennifer Salmon recommended changing the words to read and require residents to place containers a certain distance from the curb, but not necessarily behind the "front of the primary structure."

“I would just like for there to be some latitude where people put their garbage can, at least so many feet from the curb or behind an opaque fence," Salmon said.

Council member Sam Henderson, who voted no, said that he does not want to tell people where they can put their trash cans.

Vice Mayor David Hastings added during discussion that he did not want to "table this. It’s a uniform place, it’s behind the front line of the house."

Although city leaders agreed the wording can be somewhat confusing, the group decided to vote rather than delay the ordinance or send it to a workshop. The ordinance wording is meant to require residents to place the cans on the side or behind the house, as long as it is located "behind the front" of the house.

Does this affect cans in alleys? City Attorney Andrew Salzman said the ordinance does not affect the trash cans and bins that are placed in the rear of the house, near the alleyways. He said people do, however, need to place the cans on their property and not in the actual alley.

Indoor Furniture Being Stored Outdoors

The second nuisance ordinance voted on during first reading was Ordinance 2012-02, prohibiting indoor furnishings from being stored outdoors.

The original ordinance presented Tuesday night read as follows:

"Equipment. materials or furnishings not designed for use outdoors. such as automobile parts and tires, building materials, and interior furniture, may not be stored outdoors. Construction materials, unless such materials are related to an active building permit related to the property at which the materials are located, shall not be stored outdoors on a residentially zoned property."

But, after further discussion, the Council agreed to amend the ordinance to read:

"Furnishings not designated for use outdoors, may not be stored outdoors. Construction materials, unless such materials are related to an active building permit related to the property at which the materials are located, shall not be stored outdoors on a residentially zoned property."

The change effectively takes out the automobile parts and tires. Prior to the vote, Council Member Jennifer Salmon expressed concern about the ordinance possibly banning tire swings. Salmon also asked the Council if more specific wording could be added.

“I wish that we could also add in, unless it’s behind an opaque fence." Salmon referenced the Blueberry Patch and concerns about regulating what people can or cannot sit on or use in their own backyard.

Council member Sam Henderson agreed with those points. But Vice Mayor David Hastings voiced his concerns about the appearance of furniture or furnishings in someone's yard. “I’m not in favor of somebody putting an indoor couch in the backyard at all. Period,” Hastings said.

After the change to the wording was made, all four council members voted yes to pass Ordinance 2012-02 in first reading.

Other Code Ordinances

Both ordinances have to be passed during second reading to take effect. Several other nuisance ordinances will appear in future meetings. The topics include:

  • Prohibit non-operable/unregistered vehicles in front yards;
  • Mandate trimming of landscaping (edging of curbs/street edge);
  • Define and limit boats, trailers, RVs in front yards;
  • Change debris special pickup order from 7 days to 3 days;
  • Change where RVs can be stored.

The two ordinances voted on and the five issues listed above were all items discussed at the Code Enforcement Town Hall Meeting at the Gulfport Senior Center in November 2011. To see what residents said about the proposed changes, read our story:  "Problems, Solutions and Compromise on Code Enforcement."

Also, Gulfport City Manager Jim O'Reilly shared a 21-page PowerPoint presentation during the Town Hall Meeting about Code Enforcement. You can view and print the presentation.

Phil January 05, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Gee not more trailer trash look in front yards??? I kind of gotten use to seeing couches in yards or on a porch around town....
Juju Stevens January 05, 2012 at 02:52 PM
“I’m not in favor of somebody putting an indoor couch in the backyard at all. Period,” Hastings said. Really ? Really ? Can we now define outside and backyard ? We have a leather couch on the screened lanai, as well as our dining room table because the lanai is, you guessed it, our dining room. Is it outside ? Is it the backyard ? This has officially, vis a vis Hastings' comment, now reached the ridiculous. Has anyone bothered to look up the language of similar ordinances in other Florida towns, or would that be too difficult for our "lawmakers" ? The idea is to clean it up, if I'm not mistaken, not to attempt to dictate taste. (Unless Hastings wants to pay for an addition to our home and enclose the lanai for us.)
Kim Morrissey January 05, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I posted this on a FB thread also, but repeating it here: We just returned from a walk where we saw the following: A house on a corner lot complies with the new ordinance - their trash cans are behind the front of the primary structure. They are not behind their house on the side street. The house right next door has their trash cans on the side of their driveway further back from the curb than the corner house. However, they are not in compliance because their cans are not behind the front of the primary structure. This will be the case on every corner lot and makes absolutely no sense at all. And Juju I agree with you, it is reaching the ridiculous. On this same walk we saw a house with two chairs on the front stoop on either side of the front door. They look very nice, however, they are indoor dining chairs. It is crazy that these people won't be able to keep those chairs on their porch. I can also think of another house that has a "room" set up on their carport with a sofa, tv, etc. It looks neat and well-kept, so why is that a problem? I don't like seeing sofas & recliners on somebody's front lawn, but a porch or carport or backyard is absolutely fine with me. Don't we have more important things to worry about in this city?
D. Mac January 05, 2012 at 04:35 PM
I thought we elected a council, not a big government entity to tell us how to live. Stay out of private citizens business. Mr. Hastings evidently feels that he knows best for us, but I think it is a matter of a his big ego that makes him feel obligated to try and run the show. This is still America and we do not need "BIG BROTHER" telling us what HE wants..Shame on the rest of the council except Mr. Henderson..
Deborah Frethem January 05, 2012 at 05:00 PM
My rental property has an area IN Front of the house that was designed to hold their trash cans, There is a cement block wall hiding the trash cans from the street. So my renters are not in compliance? It seems to me that leaving the trash cans on the side of the house, in full view would be less desirable. Fine. We are willing to be the test casse.
Douglas Hudson January 05, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Maybe D. Mac should either attend council meetings or watch the video. If so, D. Mac would see that all 4 Council Members present voted for this ordinance...including Mr Henderson.
Juju Stevens January 05, 2012 at 07:29 PM
@ Kim--you're totally right; almost none of the corner houses will comply and not all of them are on alleys. Someone's head could explode trying to figure it out. As for the furniture, the standard should be whether it's a health or other hazard. Not everyone can afford overpriced "lawn" furniture. Next thing you know, someone will bitch cuz I glued sworavski crytsals in the centers of all the wrought iron flowers on our porch railings :) I would also recommend Municode.com if anyone has the energy to look up the language of ordinances in other areas actually already in place.
Jennifer January 05, 2012 at 08:38 PM
We have a tidy fenced area to hide our trash cans - a few feet in front of the line of the primary property. And I was just at a swanky New Years Eve party in a fancy home in Tampa that had *gasp* an outdoor living room! With indoor furniture! I guess they'd be fined. I understand that the intention is to keep Gulfport from looking like one big trash heap. But good grief. This is ridiculous.
Rob Fowler January 06, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Federal Law states that what you do visually in your yard, if it is a "political statement," is fully PROTECTED under First Amendment Rights. So place your comfy chair or couch in your front yard and claim it as a "political statement." Uncle Sam will protect you. If you do it as lazy or with apathy, you lose.
mtober January 06, 2012 at 01:17 AM
@Cherlene -- "tougher" -- please that adjective is a bit strong and a bit "Gabberesque" to describe minor enhancements to two ordinances. I was beginning to believe you were more objective in your reporting. It all boils down to common sense and RESPECT for yourself, your neighbors and your community. Every municipality around here has rules and regulations of this nature. I've called Gulfport home for over 50 years and Gulfport never used to have so many junky and unkempt properties as it does now. This is why it is now necessary to tweak the language of the codes -- to legislate common sense. All this discussion is yet a repeat of the assumptions and delirium that occured with fearfull headlines regarding the dispatch issue. I simply do not understand how anyone could argue with not putting overstuffed furniture outdoors. I mean how do you justify purposely doing something that will impact the health and safety of your neighbors? @ JuJu your lanai is not a yard is it? and that aside there is nothing in the revised language about the back yard.
mtober January 06, 2012 at 01:45 AM
It is interesting that not ONE person spoke against the furniture change @Counciln or at the Town mtg. . Garbage cans change-- one for and one against at the Town meeting, none @Council. With all due respect, I find it odd that people want to complain after something happens rather than be part of the initial process/solution. Having said that, I think what it will come down to is good judgement. I don't think the code enforcement officer is going to drive street by street and cite people that have their trash can sitting right next to the structure - in front of the house. I know that sounds simplistic but I think that will be the reality-we simply don't have the resources to cite every infraction and I think when there is evidence a best effort has been made good judgement will prevail. IMO the goal is to get the cans off the right of way & as far back from the street as possible. As to the elderly, there will have to be help if there is not already. I've seen City employees bring people's trash cans in &out. I think that is a non-issue. If someone has a problem let the City know. I am confident help will be found for them. It all boils down to the 80/20 rule that is so prevalent in society. 20% that can't do the right, common sense thing and cause govt entities to legislate common sense. Please try and think about these things logically and realistically.
Rob Fowler January 06, 2012 at 02:40 AM
@mtober: "I don't think the code enforcement officer is going to drive street by street and cite people that have their trash can sitting right next to the structure - in front of the house." A concern I have is that any neighbor with a beef will call and put pressure on the city to cite another neighbor out of vengeance or meanness. This may or may not happen, but once a phone call is made, action will likely be taken. I hope that the results of the crackdown will be a positive for our town, to make it more appealing and build community. But if it further divides one class (or taste) against another, we will suffer in the long run. The most effective means to reduce crime, enhance quality of life, raise property values, and reduce daily stress, is to live harmoniously among your neighbors with the utmost respect for each other. This should be the new law of Gulfport. That goes for neat-freaks and slobs; find a common ground where all agree.
Juju Stevens January 06, 2012 at 03:27 AM
@mtober: My comment about our lanai relates to Hastings' statement, not the ordinance. Yes, our lanai is in our backyard.
Rob Fowler January 06, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Did our vice-mayor really say, “I’m not in favor of somebody putting an indoor couch in the backyard at all. Period,” Where does the right-to-privacy kick in? I agree with JuJu, if it is a health hazard, yes it is a problem. But if it is not, and nobody can see it from the street, how dare anyone tell us what we can decorate or comfort our backyards with. Would a wooden rocking chair made for inside be a violation? A chrome and glass kitchen table set? A footstool? Bar Stools? An anitique desk that works perfectly as a garden work station? An old plastic closet organzier with hanging plants and sparkling mermaids from Domains Home Accessories? Worn out coat racks with windchimes dangling? Day-glow painted bookshelves with seashell collections and spanish moss? Stacks of artistically arranged milk crates with colorful bottle collections and Heavenly Blue Morning Glory vines growing among them? Tie-dye bed sheets and Indian batik tapestries tacked to 6 foot wooden fences? What about old brass table lamps in the back yard with giant glass marbles where the ligt bulbs used to go? Would the City of Gulfport demand we be fined for such things and force us to remove them? Or would some people be allowed, and others condemned? If you are a friend of someone important, you don't need to worry, but if you anger the wrong person, you pay and have to conform?
mtober January 06, 2012 at 04:34 AM
@Rob...neat freaks and slobs alike had and will have the opportunity to speak up and voice their opinion.;-) I agree with your thought that the best law "is to live harmoniously among your neighbors with the utmost respect for each other. " Regrettably, that is probably a utopia that will never exist, at least not among humans and I suspect that is why most every other city in this area has rules and regulations just like ours.
mtober January 06, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Re: Hastings' statement... yes he did and his concerns are drivenby the health issues cited by Jim O'reilly at the town hall meeting. I can assure you he's not trying to take away anybody's civil rights. I guess if you weren't aware of the string of related events, it would sound like a bone headed comment. You know it's funny, Mayor Mike " awe shucks" Yakes has made more bone headed comments than anyone will ever be able to count and it doesn't seem to bother anybody. Admittedly some are in a hybrid of English so perhaps they are less understandable. I suspect they are more accepted because of his "awe shucks" demeanor. Hastings the pragmatic bean counter makes a direct statement and all of a sudden he has taken away everyone's civil rights, grown three heads, turned into a dictator and we're publishing an inventory list of our back yard treasures in case the three headed bean counter and code enforcement officer come and want to deem them illegal. Funny how the concern is on the Hastings statement yet the vote on the change was unanimous. Focus on the big picture people, the entire story not the one liners that "journalists" use to play on your emotions and draw you into the story!! Oh and before I get berated for the Yakes comment-just know I like the Mayor very much and have gigged him in person on his hybrid Engish and we've had a good laugh over it. ;-)
Rob Fowler January 06, 2012 at 05:09 AM
I know one thing, I have attended City Council meetings and I will probably never attend another one. Not because I don't care, because I do care a lot, but because I cannot stand to sit on crowded uncomfortable seats for way too long constantly watching my watch longing for the meetings to get over so I can get the heck out of there. Fact is, I am not alone. Most people in Gulfport won't do it. So what happens is those who for whatever reason have no problem doing so, push the issues forward that they want. So we who won't do it, trust in those who will do it. But unfortunately, we do not get to speak our voice. We trust in those of you that do. I do believe your intentions are good, but your logic and reality are not the same as mine. Gulfport IS a utopia, yet you do not get it. You do not appear to have the vision to realize it, maybe because you have been here for so many decades with nothing to compare to other than the greener grass you perceive across the fence. And you seem to want to change it to be a status-quo generic urban regulated imitation of every other town in the Tampa Bay area. Can you not truly see why we are different? Believe me, the other areas do not compare to what we have and who we are. When one of our council persons states that they are not in favor of someone having an couch in their backyard, you should speak up and question what they are thinking.
Rob Fowler January 06, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Margarete, when I expressed concerns a few months ago that this would go to backyards, you said it would never do so, you said it was about "Curb Appeal." I backed off then. But now all of the sudden one of our civic leaders is speaking about what we do in our fenced-in backyards that nobody can see and is indeed our own private business. This was my fear and you accused me of fear mongering. Here we are, as predicted. Ugh.
Juju Stevens January 06, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Elected officials who are not held to some standard are not representing us. Hastings' statement rings of elitism to me; can't help it. It's how I react to what he's saying. (and this isn't the first time he's made a statement that has evoked my response: "sure, you pay for it though"). Do people think this town is cookie-cutter homogenous ? Does anyone really want it to be ? Does anyone know of a town of 12000 people ANYWHERE with the exact same incomes and the exact same tastes ? (if so, please don't tell me; I don't want to know) (I am quietly singing "LIttle Boxes" to myself as I type) The thing is, when it comes to health hazards (and fire hazards, though I guess burning to death is a health hazard, yes?), we already have recourse: we can call the county about mosquito control (they showed up within 24 hours when I did it this past summer); we can call code enforcement (they cited and the neighbors cleaned out a huge brush pile/fire hazard within 3 days last summer). I would imagine we could call the fire department about the brush piles, as well. We can call lack-of-progress Energy about issues with the right of way and tree branches. The mechanisms are in place for health related issues behind the front line of a home. I don't want someone traipsing through my backyard, deciding what I can and cannot have. If my mother saw it, she would likely be appalled. Dan and I love it. Our yard man... well, he could probably do with fewer trees/leaves to rake.
mtober January 07, 2012 at 03:08 AM
@ Rob--I'm beginning to wonder how you come up with some of these comments nevermind it looks like you have gone from happy clapper to happy slapper the way you are attacking me. You said "The most effective means to reduce crime, enhance quality of life, raise property values, and reduce daily stress, is to live harmoniously among your neighbors with the utmost respect for each other. This should be the new law of Gulfport" and I said " I agree but regrettably, that is probably a utopia that will never exist, at least not among humans and I suspect that is why most every other city in this area has rules and regulations just like ours." Where did I say I want a status-quo generic urban regulated imitation of every other town in the Tampa Bay area" and how did you conclude that? I have REPEATEDLY said that Gulfport is great but it has some opportunity for improvement like every other city. Humans are imperfect beings and they will never all agree and never all live harmoniously --if they did that would be Utopia! I was just trying to make a realistic observation. How you got out of that I "want a status-quo generic urban regulated imitation of every other town in the Tampa Bay area" is beyond me. I don't want anything more than what Sandy Hanna and Dolly Tickell have also expressed.
mtober January 07, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Con't >>>I could care less what color somebody paints their house or if you have a FL native garden or a front yard full of mulch. I also don't care if somebody turns their back yard into a living room, kitchen or bedroom. Put a bed in their back yard for all I care, just have an opaque fence around it so I can sit in my back yard and not see nor hear whatever might be going on. That's living in harmony isn't it Rob? You don't want to attend Council meetings nor apparently watch it on TV or on-line nor advise the Council of your opinion. You want me and others to do it for you--seriously? I speak only for myself and i don't want others speaking for me. Re: David Hastings - he made a matter of fact statement of opinion, however he did not ask for that to be included in the ordinance.If he had I would have spoken against it, but he didn't. It is no different than a matter of fact statement Sam Henderson made about the the litter fines the other night when he said he saw no need for the city to add garbage cans or signs advising of the law or the fine. The Council is allowed to have a dialog and they also deserve to be shown some respect. What are the resident attendees to do -- nit pic every word that is said? Please Rob, with all due respect, be realistic. You are ndeed again IMO bordering on fear mongering.
mtober January 07, 2012 at 03:44 AM
@ Rob - could you also please explain what this means? "If you are a friend of someone important, you don't need to worry, but if you anger the wrong person, you pay and have to conform?" IMO statements like that, from a journalist / resident with significant presence, in the city are totally irresponsible, particularly when they are in reference to a hypothetical scenario created based on mis-information and mis-perception. Why would you even plant those seeds of thought in people's minds? You talk about this being a Utopia but yet you appear to infer that City Leadership and Management would be / are unscupulous in their application of the law? My apologies if I'm missing something, but that is a serious implication of mis-trust of our Council, City Manager, Police Chief, Code Enforcement, etc.
Rob Fowler January 07, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Well, Margarete, when 20% of the voting Council makes a comment like, "“I’m not in favor of somebody putting an indoor couch in the backyard at all. Period," regardless of who they are, I am concerned. (Read your "80/20 rule" comment above where you justify legislative action based upon 20%.) If two more agreed, we might end up with code enforcement telling us what we can and cannot have within the privacy of our fenced backyards. My personal opinion is that it would be impossible to fairly enforce such a vague concept as "outdoor furniture" even in a front yard. With enough pressure by a few residents who might want the City to have that much control, I am sure that would be very possible to happen. As for my statement, "If you are a friend of someone important, you don't need to worry, but if you anger the wrong person, you pay and have to conform." - we both have a mutual friend who comes to mind who had something like that happen to him last month. So that is a realty, and would be expected in any community. Like you said, "I don't think the code enforcement officer is going to drive street by street and cite people..." But if someone has a beef against someone and their trashcan is not exactly in code, a simple phone call could become a tool of revenge or harrassment. Or if someone angers a city official, you can bet they would be under way more scrutiny than residents who have freinds in the City.
Rick Boze January 07, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Well the snowbirds are coming back around now, and I bet a few hearty discussions will be overheard at all the gathering spots, like Stella's in the next few weeks. Let's see Hastings convince them, of course he doesn't have to, because they don't vote. They just pay the taxes on their second homes, which is at least double a homesteaders. mtober is Hastings your brother or what? if someone doesn't agree with him you go for the jugular! Rob I do understand the importance of being a friend of the council and the use of code enforcement to punish. Maybe you should be more than a voice and run against these people. Again I have read articles about a failed HOA attempt for Gulfport, but now they decided to dictate a different way by using the City Council. But there is some good coming from all these laws, the price of housing is dropping in Gulfport and more properties are coming on the market. Personally I'm looking for a house just outside the city limits because of these coming changes, and their prices will fall as a result also, so keep it up for me, but I feel for the older residents who bought into a small sleepy hamlet.
Rick Boze January 07, 2012 at 07:35 PM
ps.The photo above looks like the chair is waiting to be picked up by the trash people, and of course the construction debris is in a haul off container, but I can't tell if it is in front of the house or the alleyways. I'm still waiting to see these photos of the inside furniture on front porches people keep talking about, what did they move them in every night or just when you come but they bring them out.
mtober January 07, 2012 at 08:18 PM
@Rick- No Hastings is not my brother nor is Henderson whom I also defended above. If you stay on top of Gulfport matters you know that I have also criticized Hastings --I'm not into blind favoristism. By the same token I also attempt to compliment the council-and quite frankly the current council is one of the best we have had in years. They are smart and they work hard to do their homework on issues and they participate in the community. @Rob- don't know what mutual friend you are speaking of but if you are referring to Jim Greenwald's issue that he detailed in a letter to The Gabber, I do have concern about what was done- if what he detailed is true. He should pursue resolution of that issue thru the proper channels though as his allegations are serious enough to warrant that. I do find it odd that I have not seen any reporting of that issue in The Gabber nor here on The Patch--have you? Further to the "statements", I am reminded that Mayor Yakes has said in the past that he wants everyone to have garbage cans that have the snap on locking down lids. In other words he wants to dictate what kind of garbage cans we should purchase. I'm not too keen on that--how about you?;-)
Paul Ray January 08, 2012 at 12:21 PM
@Ron Fowler - that is not accurate. If you move into a HOA you are governed by their rules, if you move into a town you are governed by their rules. I think attempting to apply First Amendment Rights to your yard is a tad bit of a stretch. IMHO
Paul Ray January 08, 2012 at 12:22 PM
@Rob, actually they do patrol areas regularly looking for code violations such as grass/weed heights in the alleys, etc.
Rob Fowler January 08, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Hey Paul, I was quoting mtober from a previous post. Sorry for confusion.
Rob Fowler January 08, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Paul, actually I did a bit of research when the topic first came up and there have been a few cases go to the Supreme Court. The cases stated were with HOA and weeds (natural yards) were generally the subject. Political signs were also addressed and the First Amendment applies to both. If it is a "Political Statement," you are protected. A neighbor could file a lawsuit claiming damages on property value, but it is extremely hard to prove. In fact, I don't think anyone has succeeded. BTW, I have no inentions of creating a vibrant colorful Living Room set artistic political statement display in our front yard. A couple decades ago, I might have had the energy to do so. I would in our backyard though... :)

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