Carrollton city officials have introduced a new clean up initiative this week aimed at residents who have not kept their grass cut.
Property owners who have let their grass grow to an “unsightly” height may be given a bill to have the yard mowed or even face a lien on their home if the bill is not paid. That length was not determined by city officials during their virtual work session on Thursday.
“The houses with tall grass are sometimes, or most of the time, the same houses that we can’t find the owners,” City Manager Tim Grizzard said during that work session. “It’s not like someone who lives there and doesn’t cut the grass. What we want to be able to do is go cut the grass and bill them for it.”
A change to the city’s ordinance would mean city staff would give owners of the properties a notice to cut their grass within a set number of days, which was not determined by city officials. The proposal was not voted on by city council members.
The city could hire a contractor for an estimated $200 and pass the bill on to the property owner if the grass is not mowed. If that fee is not paid within 30 days, the city’s ordinance says officials can take any action necessary, including putting a lien on the property to collect what it is owed.
Community Development Director Erica Studdard added there are multiple ways city officials can approach enforcement. For example, a letter can be sent to the homeowner giving them five to 10 days to address the issue.
“We would notify the property owner, and then we can wait whatever notice we give, whether it be a seven-day notice or whatever, and go in and have the properties cut,” she said. “We would send them an invoice and if the invoice isn’t paid in 30 days, we can place a lien on the property.”
But before the city can hire a contractor to cut the person’s grass, Grizzard or his designee must determine the grass poses a health risk, City Attorney J. Nevin “Huck” Smith said.
The city’s ordinance says a property owner cannot allow grass to accumulate on their property, “which would likely become a breeding place for snakes, rats, flies, gnats, mosquitoes or other harmful or dangerous creatures or insects.”
“We have to make the determination that the situation is likely to give rise to those things,” he said. “It’s not just that the grass is too high. That’s our ordinance.”
Studdard said the likelihood for snakes or mosquitoes is high in Georgia, and she added vermin is going to be a given when it comes to certain properties.
Smith told city officials there is “nothing constitutional or state law” that prevents the city from hiring someone to cut the grass if the owner does not address the issue within a reasonable amount of time.
“We can change the ordinance to say if you don’t cut your grass in five days, we don’t care if they got the letter or not, we’re going to charge them to cut it and charge them a lot,” Grizzard said.
City officials can put the notice period in the ordinance and remove the determination that the grass might cause a health issue such as vermin or snakes. But Studdard said doing so would no longer make the tall grass a nuisance.
“We’ve got to have some kind of determination to justify why we’re doing it,” Cason said. “I do want to start a ‘Clean Up Carrollton’ campaign. But I don’t want it to be just me. I think it needs to be all of us.”