The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 15, 2014

Tall grass could result in jail time

Property owners in Conneaut who don’t mow lawn face up to 30 days

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Grass-growing season has come to Conneaut, and with it some tougher penalties for property-owners who fail to mow.

Thanks to recent legislative action, offenders who continually thumb their nose at City Hall could be found guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum 30-day jail sentence.

City officials hope it doesn’t come to that, but local leaders are also weary of dispatching Public Works Department employees to mow private property and wanted a punishment that would get the attention of scofflaws. The previous penalty, a bill from the city for services rendered, didn’t make much of an impression, officials agreed.

Earlier this year, City Council agreed to beef up the town’s grass/weed ordinance by adding a criminal component. Depending on the circumstances, folks who repeatedly ignore a notice from the city to mow now risk an appearance in Conneaut Municipal Court. The first citation would be considered a minor misdemeanor, said Law Director Carly Prather. A second violation within a two-year span would be considered a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which carries the maximum 30-day jail sentence and $250 fine.

“It’s the same ordinance,” Prather said. “(The city) is just enforcing it differently.”

Grass and weeds taller than six inches are in violation of the law, which falls under the city building and housing code. Deanna Gates, planning/zoning manager, finds the offenders.

City Hall has already fielded some grass-related complaints, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Traditionally, most of the properties involve vacant homes and empty lots, and many of addresses appear year after year, officials said.

The beefed-up ordinance is part of a campaign by council to improve the appearance and health of the community. A series of new laws and codes put into place are aimed at giving the town more eye appeal. The latest move came in April, when council created criminal penalties for people to violate the residential trash-hauling ordinance.

Earlier this week, council signaled it was taking the tall grass law very seriously.

“If we have to tell you twice, you’re going to court,” said Council President Nicholas Church. “The rules have changed.”

And when do you mow, please be careful where you direct the clippings, said Ward 4 Councilman Thomas Kozesky. Clippings blown into the street can clog catch basins, causing rainwater to flood, he said.