Summer, mowing violations go hand in hand

Facts to know about the city weed code (Chapter 18, Article 3):

This house violated the city's mowing rules.

• Grass that is 12 inches or more is considered “excessive growth” and therefore in violation.

• Property owners have 10 days from the mail date of the notice to mow the grass.

• City-initiated removal costs must be paid within 30 days or the costs will be added to the property tax.

Complaints of unmowed lawns in Lawrence are starting to pick up. And as the complaints increase, so do the number of code violations distributed by the city.

During the past three months the city has issued 426 notices for residents in violation of the city weed control code.

Some of the city's latest mowing violations. This one is in the 1200 block of Ohio Street.

Brian Jimenez, city code manager, said violations tend to pick up around mid- to late April and last through July.

“It’s a big seasonal violation,” Jimenez said. “We get tons of complaints coming in.”

Each year for the past several years, the city has distributed up to 1,100 notices. While most violators take care of the problem, Jimenez said that for about a quarter of the cases, owners do not come into compliance. When this happens, the city contracts for the property to be mowed. He said the cost for contracted mowing is usually $40, a fee that is billed to the property owner.

“Something unique about the grass code is that violations never go to court,” Jimenez said. “Violators are billed instead.”

Mark Lehmann, owner of Vintage Management, is one of the property owners who’s been warned in the past. He said past violations he’s received usually concern tenants in single-family houses who don’t mow.

Another of the city's latest mowing violations, this one in the 1200 block of Prairie.

“We keep our apartments and duplexes mowed often, but we can’t force tenants to mow,” Lehmann said.

He said when tenants fail to keep their yard up to code, the company will mow the yards but charge the tenant for the service.

Repeat offenders are common. According to the code, property owners are only given a first-time notice. That means for subsequent violations, instead of issuing a warning, the city will charge the owner for another contracted mowing service.

“We may mow the same property three or four times a year,” Jimenez said.

Lawns can grow out of control for a number of reasons, ranging from broken mowers to property foreclosures. However, the desire for lawns to be aesthetically pleasing makes the code a hard one to overlook.

“It’s a regulation that is easily seen by people, so people are very likely to report it,” Jimenez said.

Besides aesthetic motivation, rodent infestations, blight, health concerns and fire hazards are other reasons that make the code necessary.

More than half of the complaints are from the public.

To report a code violation, visit lawrenceks.org/pds/code_violation or call 832-7700.