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Local News

Lompoc City Council Votes to Nix Fines, Revamp Plan To Reduce Abandoned Shopping Carts

The city of Lompoc’s proposed ordinance to reduce abandoned shopping carts littering streets and alleyways moved forward Tuesday night with a 3-2 vote, but only after council members agreed to significantly revise and simplify the proposal. 

After more than an hour of listening to details of cart technology and retrieval options, Mayor Bob Lingl and Councilmen DeWayne Holmdahl and Jim Mosby voted to send the plan to a working group of the Lompoc Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, local businesses and city staff to iron out details and return to council for approval.

They also agreed to remove a proposed $1,000 business fine, eliminate city-imposed fees and other requirements for businesses, and delay the date of implementation. 

The proposed ordinance, introduced on July 5, has been sharply criticized in council meetings and on social media for putting too much responsibility on cart owners and appearing to be an example of government overreach.  

Aaron and Alix Crocker, owners of Grocery Outlet, said the proposed ordinance should be scuttled as written and replaced with voluntary, community-based efforts. 

Alix Crocker said the ordinance could encourage more shopping cart theft, already an issue for business owners. 

“It may set the precedent that it’s OK to steal the shopping carts and the business will take care of it, the business will get fined for it," she said.

“This is a complicated thing I don’t think we need to mess around with,” Aaron Crocker said, suggesting the city “go back to square one.”

Councilman Dirk Starbuck agreed, referring to the ordinance as “making a mountain out of molehill.”

“Once again, we have government and business — oxymoron — we need to be out of it. There’s too much city involvement. We’re overreaching.”

According to City Manager Patrick Wiemiller, the ordinance was developed at the request of council members after reviewing similar ordinances for 30 cities. 

It would have required retail stores with shopping or laundry carts to develop a plan to prevent the unauthorized removal of their carts from store premises and to make arrangements to retrieve abandoned carts. Businesses who failed to submit a theft prevention plan or retrieve their abandoned carts would have been assessed a $1,000 fine. 

Ken Ostini, Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer, opposed the ordinance and recommended more involvement by the community and business owners. 

“Are abandoned carts a nuisance in our community? Sure they are, I think everybody knows that. Is this ordinance the answer? No it’s not,” Ostini said. 

Lingl, who made the motion to simplify the ordinance, eliminate proposed costs to businesses and refer the plan to a working group, thanked the community for coming forward with alternatives and said the discussion has already made a difference in the number of abandoned carts in the community.

“Just in the past month, we have noticed a difference. Just the idea of talking about it, has made a difference,” Lingl said. 

“I’m proud of our city. We want to keep it clean. I don’t think we can just put our head in the sand and ignore the problem that exists.” 

Councilman Victor Vega, who joined Starbuck in voting against moving forward, said he thought the council was going in the right direction, but remains opposed to enacting a city ordinance.

“I want us to have a better conversation with the business owners,” Vega said. “We should be able to get the business owners’ cooperation on something like that without having an ordinance in place.”

A planned discussion on the city’s ordinance against aggressive panhandling requested by Vega concluded without council action.  

Vega said he was satisfied with the brief discussion.

“I wanted someone to know out there that might be contemplating bringing a business to town … that we have the police and the city manager involved. I wanted to help with their decision-making process, to know that we do care.”

“It’s not about not having a heart, it’s about redirecting the energy and getting the word out with information out there about services that exist to help.”

Noozhawk contributing writer Carol Benham can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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