Fielding an increasing number of complaints about dumpsters and large fabric refuse containers, Burnsville is preparing a new ordinance to control how long they are left in front yards.

Dumpsters rolled off trucks and left on driveways — and, increasingly, flexible fabric containers — are often used for the disposal of demolition debris and other large refuse. More than 300 of the 8-by-4-foot fabric bags were used in Burnsville last year.

The problem is that often "the containers are left for prolonged periods in front of homes, potentially creating nuisance conditions," said Christopher Forslund, licensing and code enforcement coordinator for the city.

The open containers can draw rats or birds and sometimes debris blows out, he said. They are often unsightly and neighbors get tired of looking at the containers.

"Currently the city does not have a time limit on bulk refuse containers," Forslund said. He asked the City Council if they wanted one.

City Council members agreed that controls over dumpsters would be in line with the city's efforts to keep properties well maintained. They asked for an ordinance.

"It fits very naturally with our goal of improving the appearance of the residential areas,'' said Council Member Mary Sherry. "With the roll-offs, we know that some people abuse our system to just leave them out there for inordinate amounts of time."

She said she knows of one property where the resident is leaving a dumpster out just to irritate his neighbors. "It's not fair to the neighbors," Sherry said. The city should try to keep a balance so that people have the right to do work on their homes but don't have the right to leave construction debris in their yards indefinitely, she said.

Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said she hears more complaints about trash containers than any other issue.

"I agree people have the right to get these [containers] and fill them because they are doing some kind of work, but we do have folks in our community that abuse that right and it becomes a detriment to the whole neighborhood."

Historically, the city has had a tolerant attitude toward dumpsters, allowing them if residents have a building permit and regulating them by complaint only.

The ordinance is expected to set a time period for their use and give the city the authority to remove them and levy a fine if residents ignore notices. The city regulates lawn maintenance in similar fashion. A draft ordinance is expected to be presented to the council in July.