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Gainesville ready to set height limits on lawn growth

POSTED: June 2, 2009 11:07 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Gainesville City Council will vote on a proposed ordinance that will provide for more consistent enforcement of the city's overgrown lot ordinance. The ordinance will define overgrown as a residential lot with grass reaching 12 inches and a vacant lot with grass reaching 18 inches.

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Get out your yardsticks.

A new ordinance under consideration by the Gainesville City Council soon may require city residents to keep the height of grass and weeds on their lawns below a certain height.

If given final approval, the ordinance will require that grass on residential properties be less than one foot tall. Commercial properties and vacant lots could not have grass taller than 18 inches, according to the ordinance.

The inch-specific ordinance is an amendment to a previous one that was deemed unconstitutionally vague in the city’s municipal court.

In City of Gainesville v. Britton S. Hulsey, Judge Hammond Law ruled that city ordinance 3-5-12 pertaining to grass height gave code enforcement officials too much discretion, City Manager Kip Padgett said.

The new ordinance gets rid of the ambiguity of the previous ordinance and sets inch-specific standards for residential, commercial and vacant properties, City Marshal Debbie Jones said.

The new ordinance also restricts the types of places residents can hang their clothes to dry outside. The ordinance requires that all clothes drying outside must be hung in backyards. It prohibits hanging clothes on fences, cars, hand railings, decks, porches or playground equipment to dry.

“These grass-cutting ordinances, or ordinances of this nature, are necessary and they are helpful in keeping a clean and beautiful city,” Jones said.

The council voted in favor of the proposed ordinance Tuesday. To become law, the ordinance requires a second vote. The final vote is scheduled for June 16; if approved, it would become effective immediately.

City code does not specify the penalty for an overgrown lot citation, but states that any violation of city code is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 or as much as six months in jail.

Jones said citations for overgrown lots are rare, however.

The marshal’s office has a policy of first warning residents and property owners of a code violation before writing a citation, Jones said.

If a resident fails to bring the property into compliance within five days of a formal warning with no reasonable excuse, marshals then write a citation.

“Usually, verbal contact is enough,” Jones said.



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