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ANC to Eye Reforms for Street Dumpsters

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

In Georgetown and other high-demand neighborhoods of closely packed single-family homes, curbside dumpsters are a familiar sign that another property is undergoing extensive renovation.

But with parking at a premium in such areas, Georgetown’s advisory neighborhood commission is preparing to consider recommending that the city overhaul its dumpster permits.

“These are huge receptacles that are wider than a parked automobile and take up precious space just in terms of available driving space on the street, and they also take up precious parking spaces,” neighborhood commissioner Tom Birch said at the group’s June 30 meeting. The commission intends to take up the matter more fully Sept. 2.

Under current city rules, homeowners can place a dumpster on the street in front of their property at a cost of $150 for every six months — and at a cost of several parking spaces. Birch said the relative lack of restrictions means there is little incentive for contractors to minimize how long a dumpster stays in place.

“These things sit there for days with a blue cover on them and nothing gets put in them for days,” said Birch.

Among the ideas that commissioners will consider suggesting to the city in September are increasing the dumpster fees, placing stricter limits on how long dumpsters can remain in front of a home and charging progressively higher fees the longer a dumpster stays in place. Another is to ban them altogether.

“There’s no reason to have dumpsters in a small scenic village like Georgetown,” resident Carol Joynt said in an interview. “This is a neighborhood with very rich people. They can afford to have dump trucks come in and out on a daily basis.”

The issue has come up periodically over the years, but it received heightened attention a couple of months ago when Joynt, a prominent Georgetowner who serves as an editor-at-large of Washingtonian magazine, heard a neighbor’s concerns about a particular project, in the 1400 block of 31st Street. Joynt contacted the office of Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans, and his staff began working with the community on both the specific case and the broader issue.

“There’s a lot of money spilling into Georgetown and there’s not a lot of regulation on this sort of thing,” Joynt said. “So it’s running up on being a little bit out of control, which shows there needs to be perhaps some new rules.”

Evans was unavailable for an interview, but he provided a written statement on Monday: “Parking continues to be a large concern for residents and visitors in Georgetown. I understand that the ANC is working with residents to discuss different issues, including how to manage dumpsters. I look forward to working with the ANC and residents on any recommendations they make.”

Changes to dumpster policies could require both regulatory changes within the D.C. Department of Transportation and an act of the council. Transportation Department spokesperson Reggie Sanders did not respond to questions.

Several Georgetowners have noted that some contractors avoid dumpsters altogether, instead using trucks to continually haul away debris and make nighttime parking available for the community. They also found a precedent in Old Town Alexandria, Va., where dumpsters are prohibited.

“It’s a very similar neighborhood, they have a lot of renovations, and they get by with no dumpsters,” neighborhood commissioner Bill Starrels said of Old Town. Starrels said previous efforts to ban or otherwise control dumpsters were stymied by government dysfunction, but he’s more optimistic this time around that reform can be achieved. “I don’t understand why this is permitted in this day and age.”

This article appears in the July 23 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.