Charlotte trash proposal has condo owners in the dumps

A mechanical arm grabs and dumps garbage during pickup service in Charlotte.
A mechanical arm grabs and dumps garbage during pickup service in Charlotte.

The city of Charlotte is considering eliminating garbage collection for more than 135,000 condominiums, townhomes and apartments, a change that would save $3.4 million, officials said.

But the city’s discussion of the issue has prompted an outcry from condominium and townhome residents, who likely wouldn’t get a tax cut for the reduced service.

“That doesn’t make it fair,” said Elizabeth Wallace, president of the Renaissance on Carmel II Homeowners Association. “This would impact thousands of people.”

City officials say the change would better align it with other cities. If City Council approves the reduction, it could go into effect later this year.

In addition to questions about property tax fairness, the change could impact low-income families, making it more expensive to live in the city.

A goal of City Council is to make the city more affordable, especially as some older neighborhoods gentrify.

Charlotte charges single-family homes $25 annual fee for picking up trash. Condo and apartment developments pay the $25 for each unit.

That doesn’t cover the cost of the service, however.

The city has estimated the true cost of garbage collection for single-family homes is $186 a year. The cost for apartments – which use large dumpsters – is about $55 per unit.

The city uses general fund money, which is mostly funded by property taxes, to pay the difference.

$3.4 millionestimated city savings from the plan

$52.4 milliontotal cost of garbage collection in Charlotte

$25the amount apartment dwellers, single-family homeowners and townhome owners pay annually in garbage fees

Under the plan being discussed, the apartments and condos would no longer pay the $25 annual garbage fee to the city. But there hasn’t been any talk about lowering the property tax rate to compensate for the lost service. The city also wouldn’t provide apartments and condos with the pickup of bulky items.

Condominium, townhome and apartment dwellers might then have to pay higher fees to their homeowners association to pay for a private company to pick up their trash.

“Residents should not be punished for their housing choice,” said Bryan Holladay, who works in government affairs for the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association. “It is not equitable that multifamily would only receive some of the city services while single family gets all the city services.”

Assisant City Manager Hyong Yi said the city is trying to determine what’s the appropriate level of trash service to provide.

“We provide a level of service that most other cities don’t provide,” he said.

Holladay said that may be true. Be he believes those cities pay for garbage through fees, not property taxes.

Not all townhomes and condos would be impacted. Duplexes, triplexes and complexes with no more than four units would still receive city trash pickup.

The proposal would classify larger apartment, condominium and townhome complexes as commercial property, which don’t currently receive garbage collection.(Apartments have the option of using the city for trash collection. The city uses a private contractor for apartments.

The city has struggled with the best way to pay for trash collection.

The city’s decision to use a blend of fees and property taxes for trash pickup makes it difficult to make changes to trash service.

Yi said the city may have a future discussion about the best way to pay for trash collection.

The city is planning two meeting about the issue. The first is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in room 267.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs