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June 17, 2013

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Staff Writer

The grass might be greener, but it can’t be a foot tall in the other Delaware city resident’s yard.

A stiffer fine for tall grass goes into effect July 27 after council voted to revise the laws related to weeds and high grass. The change tacks on a $100 administrative fee when a violation requires the city hire a mowing company.

City officials said the amended ordinance is intended to help ensure that people are cutting their lawns on a regular basis and not allowing high grass and weeds to grow, which can cause a threat to public health. City council took up the issue after residents living on Montrose and Oak Hill avenues came forward with complaints.

Montrose Avenue resident Brenda Brewbaker told council that many landlords would use the fine as a maintenance department since the administrative fee ended up being so low.

“I’ve lived here over 30 years,” Brewbaker said previously. “I know you can’t fix every offense, but there’s no real deterrent in the first place.”

City planning director Dave Efland was tasked by council in May to recommend changes to the administrative fee.

Under the amended ordinance, property owners are notified in writing that they must cut their grass within five days or face the $100 administrative fee. Owners of property where the grass is a foot high or taller are in violation of the ordinance.

The notifications are only issued once a year. The property owner is billed for the cost plus the $100 fee for each instance of violation. Prior to the code change, the city charged 20 percent of the total costs associated with the mowing contract, which was as low as $6 to $12.

Under the new law, those cases where the city is forced to contract for mowing will cost the property owner the fee, plus the mowing cost, or between $130 to $160, depending on the lot size and mowing company. The $200 administrative fee cap was also removed from the ordinance.

“The goal is to make sure people cut their lawns on a regular basis and not allow high grass and weeds to become a nuisance and threat to public health, safety or welfare,” mayor Gary Milner said. “This change more accurately reflects the costs incurred by the city in fulfilling the enforcement requirements.”

The city had 843 high grass and weed code enforcement actions in 2010. About 100 of those violations resulted in the city contracting with a mowing service; the city paid about $6,000 to mow those properties.

Over the last five years, on average, there have been about 900 high grass and weed actions each year.