Town considers construction recycling ordinance
Draft ordinance would divert 50 percent of waste from projects
An ordinance aimed at keeping construction and demolition waste out of area landfills is being considered by the Danville Town Council. At their July 21 meeting, council members examined a draft ordinance provided by the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority (CCCSWA).
The ordinance requires that projects valued at over $50,000 or affecting over 1,000 square feet must divert at least 50 percent of the debris and construction materials generated by their project from the landfill.
Demolition-only projects of at least 300 square feet would also be included.
Town Attorney Rob Ewing provided an overview of the ordinance, and explained that it can be enforced in one of two ways: The applicant can put down a security deposit of either 3 percent of the project cost or $10,000; or the town can levy a fine of $1,000 for projects that are not in compliance.
In addition, no final permits will be issued unless the project has been found to be in compliance with the recycling ordinance.
Mayor Newell Arnerich said that while he believes construction and demolition waste should be diverted from the waste stream, he questioned whether the security deposit should apply to homeowners doing renovation/remodeling on single family homes.
"I won't support anything that's going to burden and put the onus on the homeowner," he said. "A person is going to come in and pay several thousand dollars for a permit and then they have to put down a $10,000 bond too?"
Ewing said that of the CCCSWA member cities, Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga use the security deposits, while Walnut Creek levies the fines for projects out of compliance.
"We could split it," Ewing said, "but I'm afraid it could make it (enforcement) more complex and someone could slip through the cracks."
Arnerich agreed. "We should either have it or not, but don't split it."
Councilman Mike Shimansky, who sits on the CCCSWA Board of Directors, said Danville is the only town in the authority that has not put such an ordinance on the books.
"As the council is aware, the required 50 percent diversion of solid waste required by the state of California has not been achieved in the last several years by all of the CCCSWA's member agencies, including Danville," he stated. "The ordinance before you is in large measure the same as in all CCSWA member agencies so contractors and builders have the same standardized requirements. A diversion of 50 percent is both doable and required."
Councilwoman Karen Stepper agreed that it is necessary to slow down the flow of waste going into the landfills, but questioned whether having the security deposit in the ordinance would prevent homeowners from doing projects. She suggested approving the ordinance using fines to enforce it and adding in the security deposit for homeowners after one year if there are problems.
Councilwoman Candace Andersen disagreed. "My concern is if we don't get a deposit up front we're chasing after them afterwards. A lot of people at the end will say, 'Well, rather than worry about the recycling I'll just pay the $1,000.' Or contractors may just build that fine into the bid. But if a homeowner has a $2,500 check waiting at the end of a project it will make them get on it," she said.
When asked by council regarding difficulties with using fines as enforcement, Ewing said that he hadn't heard of any problems in Walnut Creek, but staff's recommendation was to use the security deposit as it was more easily enforceable.
The Town Council voted 3-2 in favor of the ordinance using the security deposit. Arnerich and Stepper voted against. The ordinance will come back for a second reading and, if approved, would take effect 30 days later.