Citizens, Cut Your Grass!

Common Council is considering a proposal by Ald. Davis with tougher restrictions against overgrown lawns.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jul 22nd, 2013 12:15 pm
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Milwaukee’s Common Council wants everyone to have their lawn mowers at the ready.

Council members are considering passing an ordinance lowering the allowed height for grass while raising the fines for violating the restrictions.

The changes would allow the city to deal with problem properties sooner, according to Ald. Joe Davis, the measure’s main sponsor. The ordinance change also would bring in about $870,000 in revenue while costing about $240,000, according to a fiscal impact statement. “It makes the process cash-flow positive,” Davis told the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee last week.

The proposed ordinance, to be considered by the full council on Tuesday, would reduce the allowable height of grass from nine inches to seven inches. It would increase the basic fine for violation the ordinance from $25 to $50 and increase the charge for failing to abate the violation from $65 to $100. The cost of a second violation in the same calendar year would jump from $100 to $150.

“We do believe the fees will have an impact” on compliance, said Preston Cole, operations chief for the Department of Public Works.

A property with overgrown grass “is a problem, whether we like it or not,” Davis said. The issue has been discussed extensively by the city’s committee on abandoned and foreclosed properties, he said.  Almost 12,000 properties were cited for violations last year, a DPW official said.

The city tries to respond promptly to complaints about tall grass, but it can take several days or more, up to a few weeks, to get the property mowed, aldermen said. Meanwhile, the grass keeps growing and can be a foot tall or more before it is cut.

The demand for grass-cutting is especially high this year because of the wet spring, said Ald. Robert Puente. “It’s overwhelming.”

DPW is seeking 1.5 full-time positions to help enforce the proposed ordinance.

It is appropriate that the costs are paid by negligent property owners, Davis said. “They’re making the city of Milwaukee look horrible.”

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6 thoughts on “Citizens, Cut Your Grass!”

  1. Barbara says:

    What exactly is the problem with tall grass?

  2. Frank says:

    Does this ordinance include city parks?

  3. Rand says:

    The problem with tall grass is that it makes the property look abandoned. This can lead to break-ins. Until last week, the church on my corner had 18 inch tall weeds growing in the city-mandated shrub border around their parking lot. I’m so glad that they finally pulled out many of the weeds. Two doors down from the church there was a patch of grass in front of an empty commercial building that had not been cut for the entire season by an absentee owner. I’m also pleased that this grass has recently been cut. I don’t know if anyone reported either of these situations, but I may do so if things get that bad again. By the way, two and one/half inches to three inches is the recommended height for healthy grass. If you wait to cut it until it is seven or more inches high, it will be very stressful for the lawn.

  4. Janine says:

    Will this apply to the city “maintained” medians too? The one on Silver Spring by my home is almost a foot high. Been complaining for 3 weeks and still nothing! Where can I send my bill when I go now it myself???

  5. Bill says:

    Have a friend who go a citation who actually has a (very nice) wildflower garden in their front yard. The citation was very vague in what the problem was and what they needed to do. They tried to contact the city multiple times to resolve the issue with no success. If they want to ratchet up this program, they also need to do the same for their communications.

  6. David Ciepluch says:

    Plant more of your lawn with rain and vegetable garden. I understand the rationale for grass cutting but sometimes government and foreclosed properties are the biggest offenders. Same with snow shoveling. By the time they get around to clearing it, it has turned to ice and they have to dump a ton of salt on it.

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