High grass/weeds can result in hefty fines

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Williamston Police Officer Jesse Harris has been very busy recently as he performs his duties as the town’s codes enforcement officer. Harris is charged with identifying and notifying property owners when vegetation and/or other debris gets to the point it is in violation of the town’s ordinances.

Due to the amount of rain the area has received, vegetation grows quickly and can get out of hand.

Harris said he has placed 25 to 30 notices on properties in the town within the last month. Of those, eight of the property owners are not residents of the town.

Williamston, like many other areas of the country, has a number of properties which are owned by financial institutions due to a foreclosure.

Harris’ job is to identify those properties and track down the responsible party. He also follows up on complaints from residents who may have a neighbor who has high grass or nearby property that has unsightly vegetation on it.

On first contact and as a courtesy, a very noticeable orange doorhanger is placed on the residence.

The door hanger states which code the property owner is in violation of and that the violator has 10 days to comply.

Failure to comply with the notice can result in a fine of $1096, plus court costs and/or thirty days in jail. The fine increases each day, Harris said. If there is no response within 10 days, a summons is sent and the property owner may be facing fines.

Harris said that most of the town’s residents who receive a notice to comply usually do so within the allowed 10 days.

“We have very good compliance,” he said. Of the most recent postings, “All but one complied.”

Harris said the town and police department will work with residents when there is a lot of rain and grass grows more quickly.

The town will cut grass for non compliant property owners of abandoned or forcelosed property, however the owner or responsible entity is billed for the service, Harris said.

According to the town’s weed and excessive plant/grass growth ordinance, any weeds, grass or plants, other than trees, bushes, flowers or other ornamental plants, cannot exceed twelve inches.

Residents sometimes find themselves in violation of other related ordinances which address leaves and yard trimmings.

Leaves, grass and clippings are required to be placed in disposable containers such as plastic bags, securely tied and in a separate pile from other trash or debris.

The town will pick up yard trimmings for limbs, shrubs, stumps, etc, but requires them to be less than four inches in diameter and no longer than six feet in length. Limbs more than four inches in diameter must be no longer than two feet in length.

The ordinance states that unreasonable amounts of yard trimmings and large stumps shall be the responsibility of the tenant, property owner or contractor for removal and disposal.

Harris is also responsible for enforcing ordinances dealing with abandoned appliances, construction and demolitions materials, wrecked or dismantled motor vehicles and parked or stored motor vehicles.

Just this week the following notices to comply were posted by the town’s codes enforcement officer:

June 15 – High grass notice at 108 West Second St.

June 18 – Excessive grass, lot debris and unlicensed motor vehicle at 17 Gray Drive.

June 14 – Summons for Bank of America representative for excessive grass and weeds on a foreclosed property at 221 Longview Dr. The representative was notified May 18.

June 14 – Summons for excessive grass and weeds on Bank of America owned property at 30 Stone Avenue.

June 14 – Summons for excessive grass and weeds on Bank of America owned property at 4 Glendale Drive.