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City Tackles Tall Grass Complaints
June 5, 2014

CAPTION: Chillicothe's Code Department has been receiving dozens of calls regarding excessive tall grass in properties throughout the city, including this one in the 1200 block of McNally, where the home is vacant. Plans are for the city to mow this property on Friday and send the bill to the property owner. If the property owner does not pay, the costs will be added to the property owner's tax bill.

C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley

Dozens of complaints have been made to City Hall during the last few weeks regarding tall grass exceeding the 7-inch height limit set forth in city ordinances. On any given day, the city's codes department receives at least five calls about properties where grass has reached the limit, said Chillicothe Codes Officer Tammi Venneman. Upon receiving the complaint, the codes department will visit the site in question. If the grass is taller than seven inches, the city will send a letter notifying the property owner that the property is in violation and that it must mowed within seven days of the date of the letter. If, in seven days, the grass is not below seven inches, the codes department will authorize the city's contracted mower to mow the property.

If the city mows the yard, the costs - calculated at an hourly rate by the contractor as well as a $100 administrative fee - will be charged to the property owner. If not paid, the fee will be added to the property owner's tax bill. Venneman said that many of those receiving letters are out-of-town property owners. The homes, sometimes, are unoccupied or rental properties. Quite frequently, the property owners are repeat offenders. "In one day, we sent out 25 letters," Venneman said. "We do the same thing with the same people every year."

City officials discussed the grass nuisance ordinance during their regular council meeting last week and expressed frustration that by the time the city waits the required seven days, the grass is extremely tall. However, the city is unable to shorten the wait period, as state law requires seven days. "The city cannot change that," City Attorney Robert Cowherd said. Cowherd stated that certain cities in the state, if they have multiple offenders, can shorten the time; but, that doesn't apply to special charter cities. The city could, however, change the ordinance to shorten the height limit to six inches and could stiffen the fines.

Venneman said that the codes department appreciates the community's help in being notified about nuisance properties. Calls may be made to the codes office at 646-5636 or by emailing Venneman said that callers should provide an approximate address of the property in question.

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