The City Council met in special session on May 23, 2016 at 7:00 P.M. in the Council Chambers of City Hall.
Mayor Walker presided:
City employees present were Chief Drew, Attorney Green, Clerk Kennedy and Rick Thanstrom.
GRASS AND WEED ORDINANCE DISCUSSION: The special meeting was called as all the Council wanted to participate in the discussion, rather than just a committee. Attorney Green provided ordinance examples from other cities to review. It was discussed how aggressive the city should be and that maybe other cities are using discretionary authority. An example was if someone mowed their yard but didn’t weed eat around poles and fences maybe that’s ok.
It was discussed whether the ordinance should be based on zones. It was questioned how you pick out whom to tell to mow the grass, industrial areas or a residential house.
Attorney Green explained he understands the desire to have the ordinance enforced as all or nothing; however all law enforcement is a priority. The City won’t ever have resources to enforce down to every ditch or telephone pole. This ordinance is just like any other enforcement area. The department needs to prioritize based upon complaints and obvious problems. Once the residential areas are cleaned up then the City can start dealing with highway frontage and other areas.
Councilman Lane agreed with Attorney Green on prioritization starting with complaints, then the obvious and also have public education on the ordinance.
Chief Drew felt this is easily understood and felt the same direction was probably discussed at other cities. He stated those people complaining aren’t released to people. The department wants others to know that.
Ordinance Officer Thanstrom stated most other ordinances have an infraction or misdemeanor attached. Then there is a penalty other than civil enforcement. He felt the City needs teeth in the ordinance so the City doesn’t become a lawn mowing service.
Attorney Green is not in favor of criminalizing grass. He doesn’t think it works. The timeline for going to court takes 4-6 weeks which still doesn’t get the lawn mowed. He doesn’t like to give crimes to someone that might not be physically able to mow. Green stated based on each case, it could be handled under the state nuisance law.
Thanstrom explained when noticing the property he starts the lowest key possible by visiting with someone at the house, leaving notice and then mailing letter to the property owner.
Mayor Walker restated the Council’s direction as focusing on the residential areas first, add in complaints and then if there is an extreme fire hazard/pest control issue. All the Council agreed, keeping in mind the state nuisance law as an option.
If the lawn is not mowed, the Police department can visit with Attorney Green, who will help determine if it’s a nuisance or if the City should hire it to be mowed.
The meeting adjourned at 8:05 P.M.
Bruce Walker – Mayor
Tonya Kennedy – Clerk