Abandoned shopping carts are now officially public nuisances in the city of Oak Harbor.
The city council adopted an ordinance this week aimed at reducing the number of shopping carts abandoned about town.
The ordinance gives store owners 48 hours to retrieve their shopping carts. After that, the city will impound the carts and return them to the owners with a $75 bill.
In addition, the ordinance requires shopping cart owners to have some sort of identification on each cart and to put up signs warning customers that removal of the shopping carts from the premises is against the law.
“The accumulation of wrecked and dismantled abandoned shopping carts on public property tends to create conditions that reduce property values, and promotes blight and deterioration,” the ordinance says.
The impetus for the ordinance came from a citizen complaint.
During the meeting Tuesday, City Attorney Nicki Esparza said a group consisting of council members, the mayor and managers of the 10 stores in town with shopping carts met to discuss the issue.
“I feel it’s really been a positive and collaborative process,” she said.
Councilman Joel Servatius said many people might think that the abandoned shopping carts come from homeless people in the city, but he said he learned from store managers that a large part of the problem is apartment residents who use carts to bring groceries home. He questioned whether some of the onus to fix the problem should be on apartment managers.
Police Chief Kevin Dresker said residents who come across abandoned shopping carts should call the business from which they came.
Esparza explained that taking a shopping cart is a crime that could result in a charge of possession of stolen property.
The loss of shopping carts can be an expensive problem for businesses. They can cost anywhere from $100 to $600, according to the website Wikipedia.