Condo Trash an Issue again for Philly City Council

Feb 28, 2013

The Philadelphia condominium community's long running battle with the city over equitable delivery of public services, most notably refuse collection, takes center stage again today at a hearing of the City Council's Streets and Services Committee, which will consider a bill to repeal requirements for expensive medallions / licenses for trash dumpsters located on private property. CAI will join the Greater Philadelphia Condo Managers Association at the hearing and offer the following testimony in favor of the Bill:

CAI is a 33,000 member national organization dedicated to building better communities. CAI provides information, education, and resources to association governed communities, including condominiums, cooperatives and homeowner associations, and the professionals that support these communities. The Pennsylvania chapter represents an estimated 15,000 such communities across the Commonwealth, including approximately 900 communities with thousands of housing units within the City of Philadelphia. Tens of thousands of Philadelphians call these association-governed communities home.

I am here to offer testimony in support of City Council Bill 130016, which would change the city's recent dumpster law by exempting from the trash dumpster medallion and license fee requirements all dumpsters that are stored on private property and not on the public right of way. Many Philadelphia condominium and cooperative buildings would benefit from this legislative change.

Tens of thousands of Philadelphia residents make their home within condominiums and cooperatives across the city. In many cases, because these associations are often mistaken for commercial buildings, the residents of these communities pay for various municipal services twice…once in the form of municipal property and wage taxes, and a second time in the form of private contracts for municipal services not provided by this city government.

It is well documented that Philadelphians who live in these associations have long been denied equitable treatment in the delivery of municipal services. Most notably, this city has denied the provision of refuse collection to many of these associations despite the fact that those who live in them pay the same level of municipal taxes as their neighbors who live in single family homes. These homes are not apartments. They are not commercial buildings. They are single family homes that happen to share some common element – a roof; an elevator; a community room or a common wall.

But when it comes to the delivery of various municipal services, most notably refuse collection, these homeowners, many of whom live in, quite simply, vertical row homes, are treated differently than their neighbors who do not live in an association governed community. They are charged, as part of their municipal taxes, for city refuse collection. But for decades, amid council debate, mayoral vetoes and years of litigation, the city is still unable to adequately provide what ought to be a fundamental city service to these residents, compelling these residents to hire private contractors to the tune of thousands of dollars, forcing them, in effect, to pay twice for refuse collection.

Now, due to legislation adopted by council in 2010, these residents are forced to bear additional refuse collection costs in the form of expensive medallions and licenses for their trash collection dumpsters.

At what point is enough, enough? Several years ago, the city offered a deal to these residents, by proposing that the city would pick up trash from these associations once a week if the trash were to be piled at the curb.

Imagine what it would be like if Society Hill Towers piled its garbage from hundreds of homeowners on the street corner in the sweltering heat of July during the Welcome America Celebration, when tens of thousands of visitors flood the city’s historic district.

Imagine what it would be like if the Symphony House, located on the Avenue of the Arts, piled its garbage from hundreds of residents on the street corner a half a block from the Kimmel Center during tomorrow evening’s performance by the world famous Philadelphia Orchestra.

Imagine what it would be like if the Residences at the Ritz, located directly across the street from where we sit today, piled its garbage from hundreds of residents on the street corner on New Year’s Day, as the Mummers march proudly around City Hall to the reviewing stand, in plain sight of the television cameras broadcasting the world famous event.

Some day the residents who live in these buildings may take the city up on its offer to pile their garbage high on the street corner. I guarantee you it will not be a pretty sight as it sits rotting, waiting for the city to pick it up. I trust this sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to us.

It is clear that the issue of municipal refuse collection from condominiums and cooperative buildings will not be solved easily, or soon. However, the trash dumpsters that are used by these buildings are located on private property, they are cared for and cleaned properly, and should not be subject to costly and burdensome regulations that were intended to force commercial property owners with dumpsters stored on the public right of way to maintain the cleanliness of their dumpsters and this city. This is an issue that can and should be easily fixed.

I urge council to adopt this bill and remove this un-necessary added cost from residents who live in condominium and cooperative buildings in Philadelphia.

Tony Campisi,
Executive Director

 


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