RACINE — City inspectors could soon have more power to address properties that routinely have tall grass and weeds.
Under a recommendation made by the Public Works and Service committee on Tuesday, a property owner who violates the city’s weed ordinance would only have to be notified of the infraction once per season, before the city could automatically have a crew go out and cut their grass.
The proposal, brought forward by Chief Building Inspector Ken Plaski, is aimed at helping inspectors and public works crews keep on top of bank-owned and vacant properties that are continuously in violation of the ordinance, and almost never respond to the letters the city sends out notifying them of that fact.
Each summer, code inspectors send out dozens of letters to such property owners, Plaski said last week. Not only does sending out those letters require excessive paperwork, it ends up causing a delay in getting the properties mowed. That’s because the ordinance currently requires them to notice property owners each time they face the possibility of the city coming out and mowing their neglected property for them. It also requires that an inspector go out five days later and verify that the weeds are still high before they can have public works take care of it.
Property owners are in violation of the city’s weed ordinance if the grass and weeds on their land are nine inches or higher. If a property owner fails to pay the city the inspection and mowing fees for violating the ordinance, the charges are put on their tax bill. If the property owner fails to pay their taxes, the county ends up paying the city what they owe.
When the tall grass is growing in the lawn of an occupied home, the city’s current notification process works well, Plaski said, but not when it comes to vacant or bank-owned properties. The city often ends up charging for the work — $100 for the two inspections and $125 and hour in mowing costs — but all those letters and reinspection time frames creates lots of needless delay, he said.
Plaski was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, but Public Works Commissioner Mark Yehlen made many of the same points when he presented the proposal to committee members, especially the workload and delay issues caused by the current ordinance.
“We would like to get the weeds cut as soon as possible to avoid that five-day delay between the notification and the order for the weed cutting,” he said.
The City Council is slated to consider the ordinance change at its meeting on Monday.