The city of Union is moving forward with plans to revise its nuisance ordinance regarding weeds and tall grass.
At Monday’s personnel, finance and public works meeting, committee members agreed to proceed with the revised ordinance that cleans up the previous one.
The board of aldermen are slated to vote and make the change official at the Aug. 13 board of aldermen meeting.
The big change is raising the maximum height of what is considered a weed. Since discussion on the revisions began in June, aldermen expressed a comfort with changing the height from 7 inches to 10 inches.
The 7-inch number was set years ago and City Administrator Russell Rost said it had some unintended consequences.
The idea being 7 inches was to ensure the weeds didn’t get too long between notification of the problem and the issue being addressed.
Rost said the gap between notification and the issue finally being addressed can result in significant growth. By starting the notification process at 7 inches, he said it would still be possible to cut with regular lawn equipment.
The downside of 7 inches, is a rainy week can make even the most regular mower in violation. Rost said most mowers are set at 4 inches so a week of major growth can impact a lot of people.
Based on feedback, he said he felt 10 inches might be a better number. Aldermen agreed.
The other changes are clearing up some language and creating exceptions. For example, under detention basins the ordinance now spells out that “the trustees of the subdivision and/or developer” are responsible for maintenance.
For exceptions, weeds that are within 15 feet of a creek or larger waterway do not need to be maintained at the 10-inch mark.
Weeds on land which has an unmowable 2-foot to 1-foot slope also are excluded. Also excluded is property that is maintained as a natural forested area and property located in the nonurban zoning districts.
Lastly weeds can grow to any height as long as the growth is maintained near property lines. The ordinances states weeds “within twenty (20) feet of all property lines, streets or curbs (public or private), and buildings or structures” can’t exceed 10 inches.
The only questions about the revisions came from Mayor Mike Livengood. He was concerned about the exception allowing interior weeds to grow to any height as long as property lines are maintained.
Livengood said the city would likely get calls and complaints from residents about weeds 21 feet from the property line growing wild. He suggested adding a maximum height requirement.
No one on the committee took up the mayor’s suggestions. The committee agreed to proceed with the ordinance as presented.
Reason for Change
Aldermen began discussing the weed issue in June.
Rost said the current ordinance has unforeseen enforcement issues.
“We’ve had some efforts to strictly enforce our current ordinance, and it’s a little bit inadequate on the exceptions side,” he said. “If you strictly enforce it, it applies to a lot of unintended issues.”
Rost said the city spells out what it considers a weed. Currently Union considers grass longer than 7 inches a nuisance issue.
However, Rost said under that guideline many properties could be impacted by strict enforcement.
“When you think about forest areas — technically it could apply to that,” he said.
Rost looked at how other communities address the issue. He took pieces of other ordinances to make a revision for the city.
Throughout the whole process, aldermen instructed Rost to make changes that wouldn’t be a “burden” for people.