Apr 30, 2021 - News

Des Moines says community fridge that provides food to needy must move

The shed and community fridge that Des Moines says must be relocated. Photo courtesy of the city of DSM

A shed with a community fridge in a Des Moines front yard must be removed within the next month to avoid fines that begin at $750, city officials said in a violation notice this week.

Why it matters: The citation illustrates a need to better plan for the growing popularity of the fridges, Aubrey Alvarez, director of the nonprofit Eat Greater Des Moines (EGDM) told Axios.

What happened: DSM received a complaint within a week of the fridge’s official opening. City ordinances don't generally allow accessory structures in front yards.

  • The city supports the philanthropic intent, but staff must also enforce zoning and public safety ordinances, SuAnn Donovan, assistant director of the city’s neighborhood services division, told Axios.
  • Proper electrical systems are among the city's concerns, even though they weren't cited, she said.
  • One solution is for owner Vanessa Moranchel to move the shed to her backyard, where a permit is not necessary. She did not return a request for comment.

The big picture: There are at least three other community fridges in Des Moines, operated by individual volunteers and groups.

  • Complaints have not been made against the others, city staff said told Axios.

What's next: The city council will discuss zoning issues at a 7:30am workshop on Monday where the issue might be raised.

  • EGDM is creating a community fridge information starter kit to help people avoid future problems.

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