Weeds in Union could soon grow a little taller before they are considered a problem.
At the direction of the board of aldermen, City Administrator Russell Rost is in the process of revising the city’s weed ordinance. As part of the review, Rost wants to know what the committee thought is the right height to enforce.
At the July 2 personnel, finance and publics works meeting, he asked the committee to pick a height that would turn weeds into an issue.
Currently, Union considers grass longer than 7 inches a nuisance issue.
Rost explained that number was set several years ago.
When people are notified of a weed violation, the process can take several days. By setting the limit at 7 inches, the violation can be addressed before the grass gets too long between notification and action.
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.
Other municipalities vary with their enforcement height. Rost said the numbers range between 7 and 12 inches.
The committee and Mayor Mike Livengood discussed the issue and decided 12 inches was likely the point where weeds should be addressed. Using the knowledge that enforcement takes a few days, Alderman Paul Arand said 10 inches made sense.
“By the time they get to it, it will be 12 to 14 inches,” he said.
The committee agreed with Arand’s proposal and instructed Rost to move forward with the 10-inch limit.
Rost began reviewing the current ordinance because it 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.”
Under the current guidelines, many properties could be impacted by strict enforcement.
“When you think about forest areas — technically it could apply to that,” he said.
Rost said he reviewed ordinances in place in Rolla, Washington, Sullivan, Pacific, Wentzville and O’Fallon. All of those cities had a separate entry for exceptions to the rule,
For example, the city of Rolla exempts undeveloped properties until they are “brush-hogged.” At that point, they are required to maintain the property under the ordinance.
The board suggested meeting with police and trying to create an ordinance that wouldn’t be a “burden” for residents. The board instructed Rost to present a revised ordinance to be voted on at a future meeting.
Rost told the committee he is working on the revisions, but is having trouble making exceptions to not have unintended consequences. He hopes to have the revisions done soon and will send them to City Attorney Matt Schroeder. Once Schroeder signs off, the new ordinance would be up for vote.