What began as a simple editing error during a recent attempt to update the county’s ordinances, wound up on Aug. 6 leading to a frank discussion about the nature of, well … nature.
When, local officials found themselves debating, does the untended flora and fauna on someone’s property become a nuisance?
The question was raised during the August Board of Supervisors meeting, after County Attorney Tara McGee petitioned the board to re-adopt a portion of the county code dealing with the maintenance of weeds and grass, a section McGee explained was accidently removed during the update process.
Rather than simply rubberstamp the fix, however, several board members appeared hesitant to embrace a rule they said could represent something of a governmental overreach.
McGee explained that although the rule mandating grass be maintained at a height lower than 12 inches was actively being enforced — and that violation notices had been sent to residents on several occasions — no court action has ever been taken for lackadaisical lawn maintenance.
Still, both District 2 representative Manual Alvarez and District 1’s Susan Lascolette each suggested that the board consider removing or amending the section, or at least taking a closer look at the way it is worded. Years ago, Lascolette pointed out, the government didn’t need to get involved in such matters.
“If there was a problem with tall grass, or if someone needed help, the neighbors pitched in and helped,” she said.
Alvarez joked that he would like to go back and “correct” the fact that he had voted for the inclusion of the section in the first place.
The section concerning weeds and grass did have its supporters on the board, including District 4’s Robert Minnick, who said the ordinance had been used effectively in his district to ensure that undeveloped subdivision lots did not become overgrown.
“It may not be as important on a multi-acre rural property, but it is a tool used in other areas,” Minnick said, so his vote would be for the language to remain. District 3’s John Lumpkins agreed, noting that keeping grass cut to below 12 inches “is not too much to ask.”
For his part, District 5’s Ken Peterson said he understood both sides of the matter, noting that there could be unintended consequences from removing the rule. Still, he said, he felt some version of it was needed.
After several more minutes of discussion, the board members ultimately decided to table the matter until they could gather more information. They are expected to take up the issue again in October.
Noted Lumpkins, wryly, “By that point the grass will have stopped growing anyway.”