Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)
BYLINE: PAUL FALLON, DAILY MAIL STAFF
Tall grass already has people complaining to the Charleston Building Commission.
Building Commissioner Tony Harmon said his office already has received 25 to 30 complaints about high grass, most coming from the West Side.
His office has sent out 10 warning letters informing property owners they have five days to cut their grass or be fined, he said.
These 10 people had the highest grass of the 25 to 30 homes that were the subject of complaints, Harmon said.
“You could just tell that those 10 property owners haven’t touched their grass,” he said.
Harmon said the city office is giving the other owners a chance to mow their lawns before sending out more letters.
“People were kind of caught by surprise by the warm weather,” he said. “Lots of people were getting their mowers running and stuff like that.”
Harmon also said the rain over the past few weeks has made it difficult for some people to keep up with yard maintenance. It is difficult for some people to get off work and go home to mow their grass when it is wet or the rain is “pouring down,” he said.
“We’re giving some people a call to tell them to mow their grass before we send the warning letter out,” he said.
But warm, dry weather that has settled into the area means people will no longer have an excuse for poorly maintained yards, and inspectors will be out looking for grass 10 inches or higher by the first of next week, he said.
Six inspectors cover different parts of the city.
An offending property owner receives only one warning letter per year, Harmon said. They then have five days to mow their grass or be fined $100.
Fines increase each time inspectors find the grass 10 inches high or higher, maxing out at $500, he said.
“We want people to maintain their yards,” Harmon said. “We’d rather they do that than fine them. We’re not trying to make money from these fines. We just want people to take care of their yards.”
High grass creates a health hazard, he said. Rodents and other pests can hide in high grass and move into area yards and homes.
The grass also dries and becomes a fire hazard, he said.
The ability to fine the property owners has helped to cut down on the number of complaints coming into the city’s Building Commission, Harmon said. Last year, the commission sent out about 465 warning letters. That was down from the year before last, he said.
Only 35 to 40 people were fined last year.
“For the most part people cut their grass once they receive the letter and see they can be fined $100 for the first offense,” he said. “We don’t normally have problems with them from then on.”
The majority of the letters have gone to people who owned homes on the West Side, he said.
“But the West Side is a bigger area than the other parts of the city,” he said.
City public works employees can be sent to a specific property if the owner refuses to cut the grass even after being fined repeatedly.
Vacant lots with absentee owners often become the biggest recurring problem and are often the areas that have to be mowed by city employees, Harmon said.
The landlord registration bill was passed by city council in the summer of 2010. This has also helped Building Commission inspectors find out who owns property where grass is starting to get high, Harmon said.
“We have many of the owners’ information right at our fingertips,” he said.
Tall grass covers a lot on Red Oak Street on the city’s West Side. The unseasonably warm weather has caused grass to begin to grow very early in the year and the city has already received about 25 to 30 high grass complaints.
Charleston Public Works employee Richard Haynes mows high grass along Smith Street Monday morning.
Copyright 2012 Charleston Newspapers