Des Moines says community fridge that provides food to needy must move
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.
- The site opened about a month ago as the "North Des Moines Community Fridge" through donations solicited by neighbors.
- It allows people to help themselves to food anytime.
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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