Tahoe residents, trustees debate mandatory bear boxes | SierraSun.com

Tahoe residents, trustees debate mandatory bear boxes

A bear gets into a bag of trash outside an Incline Village home in this file photo.
File photo |

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — It could be trick or treat for Incline Village homeowners once Halloween rolls around.

The Incline Village General Improvement District board of trustees is expected to review town trash ordinances and the possibility for mandatory bear boxes as early as its Oct. 30 meeting.

Trustees took no action after more than two hours of discussion on the issue at last Wednesday’s meeting, which featured both heavy support and resistance from the public.

Earlier this year, trustees directed staff to analyze current trash laws after some residents argued the district was not enforcing its penalties for homeowners and businesses who don’t properly secure garbage.

“I campaigned for this … I’m pleased we’re discussing this. I believe we have an opportunity to become leaders here,” trustee Jim Hammerel said last Wednesday. “… What type of community do we want to become? What do we want to do? For me, it’s one that’s responsible, one that’s a leader.”

Among several options is a mandatory wildlife-resistant trash container law, which could increase trash rates by nearly 30 percent for residents, and have similar impacts on commercial properties.

Updates to IVGID’s trash laws would also impact the district’s contract with Waste Management, which provides solid waste service to customers in Incline and Crystal Bay.

Board chair Bruce Simonian said more feedback is needed, particularly from homeowner associations and Realtors, before decisions can be made.

Board vice-char Joe Wolfe shared a similar view.

“This is a very complicated issue, and I’m not going to make any decision until I hear from a number of people in this community,” he said. “I’m not willing to say one thing or another until I talk to my constituents.”

Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Tony Wasley spoke at the meeting. He told trustees the only true way to eliminate human-bear conflicts is by the “total removal of human food sources” for the animals.

Incline resident Pam Gartin was among several who urged the board to consider mandating bear boxes.

“It’s responsible stewardship … it’s a privilege for us to live here and enjoy Lake Tahoe, and that includes the wildlife of the land,” she said.

Others raised concerns, considering it would raise trash rates and place an unfair burden on homeowner associations, which are treated as one entity but have several residents, making accountability tougher.

“What I’m hearing is we seem to be looking for solutions, yet we’ve yet to hear what the problem is in quantitative terms,” said Incline resident Chuck Otto. “Is it an incident a day, week or a month. Is it a matter of safety? A matter of it trash being a mess? We need to answer all this before we can say enforcement is absolutely essential.”

Board trustee Bill Devine said he feels Washoe County — not IVGID — should take the lead on a mandatory bear box ordinance, should residents want one.

“… We’re working through the channels to decide if the residents of Incline Village want to enforce bear-proof trash containers,” Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler said in a statement this week. “I strongly believe this is an example of an issue that affects a unique community, and I look forward to being part of the discussion and seeing how the community decides to address the problem.”

Commissioners will address the issue at a hearing later this year, she said.

In the meantime, Public Works Director and interim General Manager Joe Pomroy will bring back details on potential impacts at a future meeting, perhaps as early as Oct. 30.

Depending on board decisions, any sort of change to a district ordnance can take several months to be approved.

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