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Lompoc Council Will Tackle Ordinance To Reduce Abandoned Shopping Carts

Council previously supported plan to make retail stores responsible for retrieving carts abandoned around town

An abandoned shopping cart sits in a residential neighborhood near Laurel Avenue and North O Street in Lompoc.
An abandoned shopping cart sits in a residential neighborhood near Laurel Avenue and North O Street in Lompoc. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Lompoc City Council members will get a second opportunity Tuesday evening to weigh in on a proposed ordinance intended to reduce the number of shopping carts abandoned throughout the town.

Initially approved on first reading by a 4-1 vote on July 5, the ordinance requires 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.  

Councilman Dirk Starbuck voted against the ordinance.

According to the staff report, the city mailed notice of Tuesday’s council meeting and information about the ordinance to 46 businesses after council members complained business owners weren’t involved in the development of the ordinance. 

The proposed ordinance includes a provision for the city to assess a $1,000 fine per violation.

City Manager Patrick Wiemiller told Noozhawk the $1,000 penalty is intended as a last resort for those businesses that fail to comply.

“Our plan and hope is that (the fine) never comes into play. But it would in the event an owner of carts left abandoned refuses to retrieve their carts when notified or otherwise refuses to have a plan for retrieval,” he said. 

The proposed ordinance was sharply criticized at the July 19 council meeting by several residents — including two owners of a local grocery store — for putting too much burden on business owners and not enough on those who take the carts and later abandon them.

Some speakers said the city should enforce existing laws against theft and fine those who remove the carts. Others suggested the city should take responsibility for rounding up and notifying owners of abandoned carts. 

But other residents said the city should do more to help homeless people or those without cars by working with nonprofit organizations to provide portable carts and better transportation services. 

One local business owner said the proposed ordinance was a “bafflingly dumb idea,” and criticized Wiemiller for spending time on it, although Wiemiller said he developed the ordinance at the request of council members after reviewing similar ordinances of 30 cities. 

“We’re trying to take an approach that would be a balanced approach. We’re still trying to be business friendly but bring about business accountability,” Wiemiller said.

“There are definitely some social impacts, push-backs, that occur if we start targeting our enforcement on the person in possession of the cart as opposed to the owner,” he said.

The council will also discuss the city’s ordinance against aggressive panhandling at the request of Councilman Victor Vega. 

“I’d like us to take a look at it and see what can be done, especially within our business districts,” Vega said. “I can tell you it’s an emotional thing to have to go to a store or come out of a business and either you give or you don’t give. It does raise your blood pressure; it does keep you from going to a business sometimes.”

Other items on Tuesday's council agenda include a request by Councilman Jim Mosby to put staff reports prepared for citizen advisory commissions on the city’s website for public access, along with agendas and minutes of commission meetings, and a report from the Economic Development Committee on upcoming activities and events.

The council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers, 100 Civic Center Plaza.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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