A Wauseon resident who allegedly defied both a city code and contract related to residential garbage collection is considering legal action after being denied a variance to keep a dumpster on her property.
A man acting as a liaison between the resident, Jennifer Weiland, and the city said she has violated no law or agreement, and will contemplate filing a civil suit to win her case. The man accused the city’s former police chief of sending uniformed officers to her home to harass her, and the city of threatening to pull its exclusive contract with a local refuse service if it didn’t remove its dumpster from her property.
Following a more than hour-long hearing at a city Zoning Board of Appeals meeting held March 23, which included Weiland’s representative, board members, and a couple of Weiland’s neighbors, the board rejected her application for a variance permitting a long-term dumpster on her front lawn in the 1200 block of South Park Lane. The board cited violation of Wauseon City Code 953.03, which states that garbage cans and bags placed on a street curb for residential garbage pick-up must be removed within 24 hours after the collection.
Weiland, who moved to the address last fall, argued in her appeal that the dumpster is necessary because she and one of her three children are disabled, requiring large amounts of disposable medical supplies and related deliveries to the home that quickly accumulate as trash.
“The most safe and sanitary disposal method for this amount of refuse due to the disability of the applicant and her disabled child is a dumpster,” the appeal states. The appeal does not describe Weiland’s disability but says her youngest child uses a feeding tube and ventilator and needs 24-hour care.
Under the city code, non-compliance can result in a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months of incarceration.
Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Michael Christman said after neighbors complained about the dumpster the city sent Weiland letters stating she was in violation of the code and asking her to make corrections.
The city also contacted ARS Refuse Services of Archbold, which has an exclusive contract with Wauseon for weekly trash collection and provided the dumpster. When informed the container couldn’t be placed long-term on Weiland’s front lawn, Christman said the company reached out to Weiland to discuss alternative collection methods to keep her compliant with the city. Christman said the alternatives included an offer to back a garbage truck up her driveway to her house each week if she would agree to place the container in back.
“She wasn’t happy with that decision and decided to take it further” by requesting a city variance, he said. “The fact that ARS offered those other solutions, that’s where we felt, as the Board of Appeals, that we were coming to a workable solution. But those were met with resistance by her.”
ARS ultimately removed the Dumpster from Weiland’s property, Christman said, at which time she had another delivered, this time from Klumm Brothers of Holland, Ohio. He said placement of that Dumpster was in direct violation of Wauseon’s exclusive residential refuse contract with ARS.
Klumm Brothers was notified of the policy violation and removed its container from Weiland’s property. Then on March 22, the day before the zoning appeals board was scheduled to meet to discuss Weiland’s variance request, a third company, Republic Services, delivered a dumpster to her home, where it reportedly remains.
Christman said Weiland was represented at the meeting by the liaison, who argued her case. The man told board members none of the medical waste filling the dumpster was hazardous, and that its sheer volume necessitated the large container.
Neighbors of Weiland upset over the long-term dumpster also spoke at the meeting. Christman said they reportedly offered to help Weiland somehow resolve the problem “and she refused that help. It’s not that people haven’t tried to help her.”
The Zoning Board of Appeals – which includes members Greg Suon, Randy Zeigler, and Daniel Dunlap – unanimously voted against the variance request. Christman said Weiland’s remaining option is a civil suit against the city.
Weiland’s liaison, who would identify himself only as RJ, has a different version of events.
RJ argued that the city code in question specifies the removal after 24 hours of only cans and bags. “Nowhere on there does it say ‘dumpster,’” he said.
He said a warning letter Weiland received from the city on Jan 12 also specified only cans and bags must be removed. He said when she received a second city letter on Jan. 22 the word “Dumpster” was included. The letters the city sent “are changing the wording of the law to suit their needs,” RJ said.
He claims ARS never offered Weiland alternative solutions to the problem before the board of appeals hearing. “Who do they think they are to tell her what she can and can’t do with her property?” he said. RJ added that the ARS dumpster had been on Weiland’s property without complaint since a week after she moved to the address last Sept. 17.
“It wasn’t a problem all that time, and then, come January, all of a sudden it’s a problem,” he said.
RJ, who said he’s not an attorney but was entrusted by Weiland to represent her, said Michele Ryder, ARS vice president of sales, told him the City of Wauseon threatened to cut its exclusive refuse contract with the company if the Dumpster wasn’t removed. “(Ryder) said, and I quote, ‘If I don’t pull it then Wauseon is going to cancel their contract with us,’” RJ said.
Weiland assumed that if ARS willingly removed the dumpster she had the right to rent another from a different service, in that case Klumm Brothers, he added.
Wauseon Public Service Director Keith Torbet said Weiland filed a civil rights violation against the city following denial of her variance request. He said placing the dumpster in back of Weiland’s house could still violate the city code, but because of her situation the city is willing to somehow accommodate her.
“We have the code for a reason,” Torbet said. “We’re trying to work with accommodations with the owner, but it’s a two-way street.” He said he spoke directly with Ryder about the dumpster, and never threatened to pull the company’s contract.
Ryder confirmed the contract wasn’t threatened. “Absolutely not,” she said.
She said she is not at liberty to further discuss the case.
RJ accused Torbet of using his influence as Wauseon’s former police chief to twice send on-duty uniformed police officers to Weiland’s house to harass her about the dumpster and nurses assigned to her son about parking their vehicles on the street. He said Weiland has also received threats from people through Facebook posts.
“There’s no confidence with the police department if she was to call 911,” RJ said. The house has since been equipped with security cameras.
Wauseon Police Chief Kevin Chittenden confirmed Officer Matt McDonough visited Weiland’s residence Jan. 22 to deliver a message regarding the dumpster but she was not available. While at the residence, McDonough told a nurse that parking on that street isn’t allowed, and the nurse agreed to move the vehicle.
Chittenden said McDonough tried unsuccessfully to contact Weiland several more times. He said the accusation against Torbet is false.
“He can’t send people out on patrol. He can’t order a patrolman to do anything,” Chittenden said. He said Torbet must file a complaint with the department like any resident or city official.
Torbet said McDonough tried to contact Weiland because he assists Torbet’s office with cases of city zoning violations. He also declined to comment further on the case.
RJ said throughout the timeline of Weiland’s case he took photos around Wauseon showing evidence of long-term dumpsters from ARS and other companies on residential and commercial properties, including one photo showing a city employee’s truck in the driveway of a property with a container. RJ claims some of the residents have admitted the dumpsters have been in place for two years or more. He said, in fact, a neighbor of Weiland has a dumpster remaining on her property “because she didn’t speak out openly against ARS.”
RJ agreed to but failed to deliver a sampling of the photos to the Expositor.
As for Christman’s suggestion that Weiland received offers of help, RJ said a single person offered in a Facebook post to send her children and other neighborhood youths to Weiland’s property to move the dumpster. He said the neighbor didn’t offer adult help, and that Weiland is hesitant to allow anyone on her property, fearing her disabled child will contract COVID-19.
Christman said the crux of the board’s decision was that Weiland wants a dumpster to remain on her front property near the street, in violation of the city code. He said Weiland insists without explanation that the dumpster remain on her front lawn.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.