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Abandoned shopping carts will net stiff fines

New Lone Tree ordinance requires owners to act quickly

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Business owners whose shopping carts find their way to Lone Tree streets can face a fine of up to $1,000 if they are not removed within 48 hours of notification from the city.

After several years of the city dealing with abandoned shopping carts left on streets at various bus stops, Lone Tree City Council passed an ordinance at its Jan. 16 meeting that it hopes will put an end to the problem.

The ordinance describes the abandonment of shopping carts as "visual blight" and "a public nuisance" that can interfere with pedestrian and vehicular traffic and impede emergency services. Those who don't comply with the new regulations can be fined up to $1,000.

Julius Zsako, the city's zoning coordinator and city forester, noted that most business owners do a great job of taking care of their properties. But when a cart is taken off property and abandoned, it causes safety issues and is not in keeping with the cleanliness Lone Tree is known for, she said.

“When the carts sit there for a week or so, then they can accumulate trash, or other carts are abandoned at the same place,” said Zsako. “They start to cause a problem and don't portray the cleanliness of our city that we're so proud of.”

Carts are regularly abandoned near an RTD bus stop at Quebec and Park Meadows Drive, with sometimes several carts being abandoned at once.

James Baxton is a regular bus rider, and said he sees carts left at the bus stop regularly.

"I guess it would be easy enough for the owners to come get them, mostly they're still in good shape and useable, people just need them to get their stuff to the bus," said Baxton. "They can get ugly when people leave stuff in them or people put their garbage in them."

Because every shopping cart is branded, Zsako says it's easy to identify the business that owns it. Ultimately the owner of the cart is responsible for its removal, even after it leaves their property. Lone Tree officials, volunteers and officers regularly patrol through the city and report any abandoned carts found.

Until now, cart owners have been notified, but there has been no consequence if the carts are not removed.

“With this ordinance, we really wanted to be fair to everyone, and this now places the burden on the owner of the cart. People running off with carts is just part of doing business,” he said. “Now, if a cart is discarded, we will hand-deliver a written notice to remove the cart to the owner. They have 48 hours to remove it, and if they don't, Lone Tree can issue a ticket, which includes a summons and complaint for court appearance. There's a maximum fine of $1,000.”

The ordinance specifies an owner as "any person or entity that owns, leases, possesses or makes more than 10 shopping carts available to customers or the public in connection with the conduct of a business.”

The ordinance takes effect the middle of February. Local grocers Safeway and King Soopers did not return calls asking for comments on the new ordinance.

“We are very compliance-oriented," Zsako said, "and having the penalty in place closes the loophole.”

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