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Charlotte Area

Council May End Trash Pickup For Apartment, Condo Complexes


It’s been 20 years since city officials updated Charlotte’s trash pickup policies. The proposed changes they are considering have many residents seeing red.

City officials are considering whether to eliminate trash collection for most apartment complexes, townhouses, and condominiums. That means a hike in garbage collection costs for owners of those units, since the price of a private service would likely cost more. And property tax rates of those residences would remain the same, points out Jim Slaughter, president of the North Carolina Community Associations Institute.

“This would be inequitable and the reason why is because a specific set of taxpayers would have their services reduced but not taxes,” Slaughter said.

The city charges a $25 annual fee for all single family homes and each unit of multi-family housing developments. But that fee only covers 17 percent of the cost of garbage collection. The city’s general fund makes up the difference of more than $43 million, through property taxes.

“Owners of townhomes and condominiums pay property taxes just like other owners but they would have to contract with a private trash removal company almost certainly at a higher price to get a service that single family owners are getting in their taxes,” Slaughter said.

A boom in apartment construction and other multifamily housing has prompted city officials to consider the proposal. The concern is that every new apartment complex, townhouse, and condo development adds to the cost of trash service.

If approved, the city would save about $3.6 million, according to city staff estimates. City Council member Claire Fallon is sympathetic to the owners of apartments and condo units, who would likely pass on costs to their residents.

Credit Julie Rose
The city's apartment and other multifamily construction boom is increasing the demand for trash pickup services.

“There’s got to be a better way to think this through,” Fallon said. “It’s an even, level tax base for everybody and a service for all is what is promised in their property tax.”

The garbage collection proposal isn’t new. A city consultant recommended three years ago that service be discontinued for multifamily housing complexes. Councilman Greg Phipps says it’s time to adjust solid waste policies to keep up with a growing population, but he was quick to say, no decisions have been made on how they will change.

“I firmly believe that if changes are made, they won’t be as drastic as people think,” Phipps said. “A lot of areas will still qualify and a lot of complexes will qualify for regular pick up, so we’ll have to go through the process and see how it shakes out but the community will be in a position to weigh in and help us make that final decision.”

The changes being considered apply to complexes of five or more units.

For Nathaniel Ford, the possibility of the city eliminating trash services for these complexes represents a potential gold mine. Ford owns Suburban Sanitation which he says has about 1,400 individual customers and a few development contracts. He says several homeowners associations have contacted him and that he and his competitors are anxious to sign them up.

“As soon as we heard about the process, we started looking into what it would take to secure more financing for more trucks and to bring on employees,” Ford said. “We just need the final word on it, but it’s so far up in the air that no one is willing to pull the trigger on securing financing or purchasing new equipment to accommodate that without that final word.”

So far, two public hearings have been held on the issue as part of next year’s budget discussions. A third is scheduled for later this spring as the budget process moves forward.