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The Telegram
  • Municipalities burdened with overgrown grass

  • Dana Dirienco’s next-door neighbor in Ilion is a vacant building overrun with foot-high grass and unmanaged bushes and trees.

    “It’s frustrating because it’s right next door to the business, and it lowers the value of the property,” said Dirienco, co-owner of Swan Pools & Spa.

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  • Dana Dirienco’s next-door neighbor in Ilion is a vacant building overrun with foot-high grass and unmanaged bushes and trees.
    “It’s frustrating because it’s right next door to the business, and it lowers the value of the property,” said Dirienco, co-owner of Swan Pools & Spa.
    The property in question — 124 E. Main St.  — is a foreclosure and is no stranger to the village codes department.
    “For 15 years, I’ve been dealing with that piece of property,” said Jim Trevett, village fire chief and codes officer.
    Trevett said about seven notices go out each week to residents who aren’t maintaining their lawns, and each year about 12 properties are taken care of by the village’s Department of Public Works when the property owners fail to act.
    Ilion is not alone with grass-cutting violations. Codes departments throughout the area issue notices of violation to property owners who fail to cut their grass, yet still a large number of properties end up being mowed by the municipality, who then pass on the cost to the owner.
    Public Eye has received several calls and emails within the last few weeks concerned about properties throughout the Mohawk Valley that haven’t been taken care of.
    Officials said that these complaints don’t fall on deaf ears, but because of limited resources and recent storm damage, crews are behind.
    This year from April 1 to June 4, Utica City Codes Enforcement Officer Dave Farina said his department issued 255 notices of violation. At the same time last year it was 313.
    Of those 313 notices, 131 were mowed by the city’s parks department — and the bill was either sent to the owner or placed on their tax bills. The numbers of bills for this year couldn’t be learned.
    “Like the snow in the winter with sidewalks, it consumes a lot of our time,” Farina said. “In the beginning of the season, a lot of people don’t cut their grass.”
    Typically, a property owner can’t be cited for failure to cut grass until it’s at least 10 inches high, he said. From there, they have seven days to correct the issue, and he said if they don’t respond, the parks department will assume responsibility.
    The bill then is sent to the owner, and if they do not pay, Farina said the charge goes on their tax bill.
    “Usually, when someone gets one of them, they never do it again,” he said. “We’d rather them do it themselves. It’s a time-consuming thing.”
    Trevett said Ilion follows a similar guideline to Utica, saying that the height has to be more than 7 inches.
    The grass problem isn’t restricted to municipalities. Overgrown foliage along  publicly owned roads can be evident in spring and summer.
    Page 2 of 2 - State Department of Transportation officials said they try to mow the grass along their 1,200 miles of highway twice a year. Those where sight could be impaired by high grass might get more attention throughout the season, Director of Operations Bob Rice said.
    “Safety is the primary component,” Rice said. “An interchange or intersection, they’re priority.”
    The lack of responsible homeownership becomes a burden not only to the departments, but to area residents as well.
    Utica Public Works and Parks Commissioner David Short said two big back-to-back storms had have kept them preoccupied.
    “The crews that would be out mowing grass are picking up debris to keep the parks and roads open,” he said. “We’re keeping a skeleton crew on the grass so it doesn’t get out of control, but you can only do so much with that.”
    Plus, Short said keeping up with mowing is most difficult in May and June.
    “Mother Nature is providing a lot of moisture, and she’s providing heat,” he said. “That means the grass is going to grow.”
     
     

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