Changes to Exterior Property Maintenance Ordinance

At last Wednesday’s Planning committee meeting, we voted to send some changes to our External Property Maintenance Ordinance on to Common Council.

The Exterior Property Maintenance Ordinance (or “EPMO” in City Hall parlance) requires that city properties comply with certain standards: no overgrown lawns, no discarded trash in the front yard, no snow-impeded sidewalks, no bags of garbage left on porches, etc.

The ordinance has produced an enormous amount of frustration. The exorbitant fines and delayed notification periods have long proven to be a major hassle for city residents and property owners. To address these problems, we’re proposing to reduce the fines and improve our notification system. These changes are long overdue. In fact, four years ago, when I was a reporter at the Ithaca Times, I wrote an article on this very issue.

Under the proposal we sent to Council, fines for garbage-related offenses (like leaving a bag of trash on your front porch) would be lowered from the current rate of $25, $50, $200, $300 (for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th offenses in a 6-month period) to $25, $50, $100 (for 1st, 2nd, 3rd offense in a 6-month period). Sidewalk-related offenses (like blocking failing to clear the snow from your sidewalk) would stay the same – $40, $60, $100 (for 1st, 2nd, 3rd offenses in a 12-month period) – so as to reflect the value we place on safe access to city sidewalks. Finally, the notorious “lid off garbage can” fine would be lowered to $10 per offense and would not escalate.

We’re also proposing a 24-hour warning period for violations related to litter, solid waste, and garbage stored outside. Those signed up to the city’s email notification system would get an email warning about an offense, and if the problem is fixed within 24 hours, no ticket will be written. This change does not apply to snowy sidewalks, which must be cleared 24 hours after the snow begins to fall. This rule would stay in effect. If you haven’t yet signed up to the city’s email notification system, you should do so here.

These changes still need to be approved by Common Council. They will be on the agenda for our February Council meeting – Wednesday, February 3rd at 6pm in Council Chambers, 108 East Green Street, Ithaca. If you have any comments in the meantime, please feel free to send them to me at