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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Norman explains city's complaint process

Thursday, May 13, 2010

GREENCASTLE -- City Planner Shannon Norman used Tuesday's meeting of the Greencastle Common Council as a chance to remind residents of the enforcement process in regards to property maintenance, including grass mowing, weeding and the removal of trash and junk.

With grass growing as it does during this season, Norman's office receives many calls with complaints from neighbors about unmowed grass, weeds and junk in yards.

While a number of yards around the city are seemingly unmaintained or eyesores, they may or may not be in violation. The city has a procedure it must follow in enforcing its ordinances.

With mowing being one of the prime concerns, Norman reiterated that grass is not out of compliance until it reaches 12 inches in length. Even if a yard is not currently in violation, problem areas can be monitored and owners contacted.

She also emphasized the number of steps in addressing any problems.

1. The planner receives a complaint. Complaints can be conveyed by phone, letter or e-mail and are often anonymous.

2. The planner investigates.

3. Enforcement letters sent to property owner. If it's a rented property, the tenant is generally copied. This step is often problematic, as property owners are sometimes difficult to locate.

4. Once the letter is sent, the owner has 15 days to abate the nuisance

5. At that time, the city has the power to abate the nuisance. Norman has $2,500 in her budget for this purpose, is not enough to fix every problem.

6. Each day after the 15 day is a separate fine. Can be fined $100 to $2,500 per day. Additionally, a notice of fines is mailed and the owner has 15 days to pay fine.

7. If the fine is not paid, it's recorded as a property maintenance lien and part of following year's tax bill.

Although residents can get very frustrated when they don't feel neighbors are doing their best to maintain their yards, Norman asked for patience in dealing with the issues.

"The best course of action is to report the issue and then allow my office to work through the problem," Norman said. "We'll try to do the best that we can."

Norman also mentioned that mowing the neighbor's property is not the answer. It is trespassing, and it does not resolve the root issue.

City attorney Laurie Hardwick added a little communication can do wonders.

"It would be nice if people just talked to their neighbors and asked them instead of getting government involved," Hardwick said.

Anyone with questions can contact Norman's office at 653-7719.

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