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June 22, 2009 - 9:38pm

Weeds Be Gone: City looks to toughen ordinance for property clean up

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weeds.

Now that I'm a city resident, there are things (though not many) that bug me a little more than they did in the past.

One of these pet peeves is the weeds in the Salvation Army parking lot on Jackson near Ellicott.  Weeds from the curb to the front door, in every crack, and weeds at the base of the light polls, and weeds along the north side of the parking lot. Not to mention the building hasn't been painted in decades and the front sign polls look like they came off a rusted battle ship. 

I drive past this location every day and feel sorry for the owner of Floral Fantasies, who must try to run an elegant business next to this mess.

It's just plain unsightly.

Apparently, I'm not the only city resident who's had enough of the weeds around town. It turns out City Council members get regular constituent complaints, but the current ordinance is proving ineffective at getting property owners to make their land and buildings a little less ugly.

The proposed changes would give property owners 48 hours to clean up weeds, trash or debris once a notice has been posted on the property. If the work isn't done in 48 hours, outside crews will be brought in to clean up the mess and the property owner will be assessed the price of the clean up and fined $250. A second violation in the same calendar year would yield clean-up costs and a $100 fine.

The only controversial point in the proposed changes is that an alternative penalty is 50 days in jail. The council debated this provision for a good 15 or 20 minutes after Councilman Bill Cox raised an objection to the language.

"This is America it’s not Russia," Cox said. "We don’t put people in jail for not cutting their grass.  We can fine them heavily, but even to to threaten them with jail is not what we do."

Councilman Tim Buckley took an opposing view, saying a violation of the law is a violation of the law and the threaten of jail time would encourage people to pay their fines, rather than let them slide (the city can put a lien against the property, but would have no other recourse to collect unpaid fines and bills).

"Deep in our hearts don’t want to send anybody to jail," Buckley said. Later adding, "I understand where Mr. Cox is coming form. This is America, but in America when you break the law, you pay the penalty."

Several council members, City Attorney George Van Nest and Asst. City Manager Sally Kuzon all said that sending people to jail for not cleaning up their property would only be used in extreme cases.

"I think the judges and the police officers involved would have enough discretion to recognize this is an extreme measure," Councilwoman Marianne Clattenburg said.

Removing jail time from the proposed language failed on a 4-5 vote.

Next, the proposed changes will be the subject of a public hearing.  I didn't write down the date and will update this post as soon as I have it. 

BTW: If somebody wants to organize a clean up crew to help out the Salvation Army, I'll set aside a Saturday to pitch in and whack a few weeds.

Peter O'Brien
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It's my property and I will keep it the way I want to. F them
Chelsea O'Brien
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Wait a minute, wait a minute... So if I keep my property clean and neat, I have to "pay" to keep it that way by taking my yard waste to some "yard waste area" as the city doesn't see fit to actually have a few yard waste days. If I don't keep my property clean and neat I have to pay a fine for someone to come and clean it? And if I get arrested, who is taking care of the property while I'm in jail for 50 days? The city? will they keep fining me and giving me jail time? Sounds like another pointless law and waste city council time to me...
Peter O'Brien
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They won't have the peanuts to put anyone in jail over this. http://tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/article847365.ece They don't want the national media coverage this story got.
John Roach
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Threatening people with jail with a new law might not be the best way to get the town to consolidate. Fines have been used before in other areas and work. you can also add the fine to the property taxes.
DOUGLAS MCCLURG
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Truck and tools 4 hire-contact me!! I love BATAVIA!!!!!
Mark Potwora
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What is the current ordinance..what does it say..does it define weeds..to some they are wild flowers..What, did the city have a ordinance that couldn't be enforced all these years..what other codes can't be enforced..Good thing we just hired another code enforcement officer..
Beth Kinsley
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Good point Mark. One man's weed is another man's flower.
Mark Potwora
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thanks Beth...
Howard B. Owens
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Mark, the actual current ordinance, or even the proposed one, wasn't in my council packet ... so going off statements made, currently there is a five-day warning process, but then no provision to really enforce actual compliance.
Mark Potwora
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OK Thanks Howard...
Bea McManis
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I recall a professional on Richmond Ave. who's lawn kept getting more unruly. I believe they called it a "urban meadow". Just out of curiosity, what happens if you maintain an urban compost system for your yard waste? Have they figured out a way to stop that too?
C. M. Barons
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One of the first things that needs to be done- get rid of real property based taxes. It is time to stop penalizing people for residential upkeep. Why should my taxes go up if I make improvements on my home or property? It is one of the most self-defeating manifestations of taxation. It cannot be denied that individuals purposely neglect home maintenance as to keep their taxes low. Moreover, the value of one's home neither reflects the owner's net worth nor does it reflect the value of public services homeowners advantage. Our state senate came inches from rolling back this archaic law. We need to get assembly members onboard as well. Tinkering with the law and capping it is not enough. A state and local income tax is the answer- it works for downstate, what's wrong with us? Think of the savings once all the assessors and real property burocrats are dismissed!
Bea McManis
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Posted by C. M. Barons on June 23, 2009 - 12:19am ..... Think of the savings once all the assessors and real property burocrats are dismissed! Not to mention the fact that some areas of the city get a blind eye from assossors and those who can least afford it are burdened more and more each assessment.
Mark Potwora
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Amen to that Bea........
John Roach
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Sounds good, but a "City Income Tax"? Again, how do you get the Town on board with consolidation with that idea?
Howard B. Owens
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The government already takes enough of my income, thank you.
John Roach
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C.M., The amount and way taxes are collected has no bearing on the code for weed control or the codes for property maintenance.
Bea McManis
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I believe that businesses have a civic duty to maintain their property. Unfortunately civic duty can't be legislated. Homeowners and renters also have a civic duty but, once again, that is something that can't be enforced by laws. Also, how do you get a consolidation that even looks attractive to those in the town when the city is working overtime to enact laws that are difficult to enforce and what will come next? 1. Who makes the determination that your property is too weedy, or that the grass is too long? Will we have a lawn police, measuring grass with a 'yard'stick? Will badges be awarded to weed police? The town is rural. Will farmers no longer be allowed to have meadows and grazing areas? Will town people take their yard waste to a designated area? 2. How many town home owners are going to appreciate, if they are part of the city, that clothes lines might be considered unsightly and can no longer be used on their property? Yes, there are properties that need to be cleaned. Howard's idea of a volunteer group (ala Barb Toal's group) is a much better idea than dubious new laws. Threatening jail time for those who may be unable to care for their own lawns and yards is inhuman. Threatening fines for those who can ill afford to hire expensive lawn care is inhuman. There are youth groups who look for projects throughout the year. Perhaps, rather than making this a money making scheme for the city, an arrangement can be made for groups to help out those who are no longer able to tend their own property. Could lawn care be part of community service?
Lucille Van Son
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Bea, I do agree with you about getting help for those who can't do for themselves, but what about those lawns of the absentee landlords or empty houses? There is one on Liberty Street that looks terrible, and all the others are nicely trimmed. You see that all over the city.
Bryant Tyson
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Paint your house or go to jail, put a new roof on your house or go to jail, replace that down spout or go to jail, Now cut your grass or go to jail. Buying a house in this city is the biggest mistake I ever made.
Karen Miconi
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How about this, Fix the City Streets or Go To Jail. Isnt there any other way to handle this , but to put a pricetag on everything. Whats good for the Goose, Is Good For The Gander! Oh they Blacktopped Manhattan Ave? What city official lives on that street. Just Saying......That Blacktop could have been used to fill the potholes instead. Wonder how much that cost?? Rest in Peace Ed McMahan
Chelsea O'Brien
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There are already too many rules in this city. I love my house, but I agree with Bryant, moving to this city was one of the biggest mistakes I've made.
cj sruger
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And they think this will attract the town votes to consolidate? No thanks
Bea McManis
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Posted by Lucille Van Son on June 23, 2009 - 8:34am Bea, I do agree with you about getting help for those who can't do for themselves, but what about those lawns of the absentee landlords or empty houses? There is one on Liberty Street that looks terrible, and all the others are nicely trimmed. You see that all over the city. Lucille, an absentee landlord is engaged in a business venture. There are already laws on the books that should be enforced in order for them to keep up their property. If they enforced those laws then there is no need for additional legislation. My main concern (and I have no dog in this fight since I don't have property)is for those who have maintained their homes for years and are no longer capable of doing so. These are the people that the city will go after first, long before the absentee landlords. As an aside, I walked to Fisher Park yesterday. The sidewalks on the south side of that street are a disgrace. I know that it isn't the only street in that condition, when will sidewalk repair be a priority?
George Richardson
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Howard, I would love to see a few pictures of the really major offenders. Plus, if they truly are that bad maybe you could post the property owners name (landlords especially)so as to shame them into doing something or make people realize that sometimes people(the elderly or infirm) need some volunteers to come and help them out. Batavia seems very heavy handed in the laws they pass and some of them probably wouldn't stand up in state court. Can't Batavia get some stimulus money for overall beautification? I'll bet you could find two hundred kids who would do lawnwork for minimum wage, maybe Doug McClurg could be a facillitator if some seed money came his way. Of course, it doesn't have to be Doug but he seems ready to grab the ball and run so, I figure, why not? Drive around and find some real scofflaws, ex-Batavian busy bodies want to know. Here in Austin they have a more relaxed attitude about stuff like this: Introducing "The Cathedral of Junk" http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/7816
Beth Kinsley
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I have a question. If the city and town were to consolidate, would the city or town's rules rule? I think I read that the municipality would have to be a city so would that mean that the town would be bound by the city's rules and regulations which really don't apply to a rural setting or would new rules need to be made? Just wondering.
John Roach
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Beth, There will be a group of people selected by the Town Board and City Council to write a new charter or rules for the "NEW" Batavia, but only after the vote to consolidate, not before. Nobody knows how the new rulles will come out, since that group will not be picked until after consolidation is approved. People will tell you how it will be, but they really don't know. That is one reason you better vote in good people this November, as they will be the ones making that decision on who writes the new charter/rules/codes, etc. I would be very careful this year and look at the past record of anyone running.
Julie A Pappalardo
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I moved out of Batavia in November. After serving on the Neighborhood Improvement Commitee I realized that the City government was getting WAY too big and WAY too much into everyone business!!! If they keep raising taxes and fees (those are a TAX too folks) people will leave in DROVES!!! I still have rentals in Batavia and frankly I can't WAIT to sell them. The last Commitee meeting I attended, they were talking about FORCING all the landlords to have their properties inspected EVERY time a tenant moves out, then be CHARGED like $40 a pop! Insane......business unfriendly city. Anyone interested in my rentals feel free to contact me. My rental business actually MAKES $$, and has room for growth. I won't even get into what this City did to me in my bar business... I was the just about the ONLY bar in town that ran on the up and up.......Apparently they would rather have bars in town with open drug use/dealing. Then again look at the influx of what has been moving into town. Here in Newstead, the taxes are HALF of what they are in Batavia, the garbage people take one BULK item a week WITHOUT a sticker OR extra charge, and (strangly enough) the weather is better here! The sun actually shines in the Winter! Off My Soapbox
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Posted by Julie A Pappalardo on June 23, 2009 - 12:37pm I moved out of Batavia in November. After serving on the Neighborhood Improvement Commitee I realized that the City government was getting WAY too big and WAY too much into everyone business!!! If they keep raising taxes and fees (those are a TAX too folks) people will leave in DROVES!!! Just out of curiosity, how many members of the Neighborhood Improvement Commitee are landlords? Do you know? How many people make up this committee? How long do they serve?
Julie A Pappalardo
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NIC (when I was on it) had 2 landlords, each ward has a citizen rep, there is also a rep from Batavia Police, a rep from the City (Sally Kuzon). My term was supposed to be 3 years (I think), but I moved and gave up my position. For a LONG time NOTHING was accomplished at the meetings. The SAME people kept showing up EVERY month with a log of their neighbors dog excretions....pictures and all..... What a joke.
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Posted by Julie A Pappalardo on June 23, 2009 - 1:57pm NIC (when I was on it) had 2 landlords, each ward has a citizen rep, there is also a rep from Batavia Police, a rep from the City (Sally Kuzon). My term was supposed to be 3 years (I think), but I moved and gave up my position. For a LONG time NOTHING was accomplished at the meetings. The SAME people kept showing up EVERY month with a log of their neighbors dog excretions....pictures and all..... What a joke. Now a question for the group. How many of you KNOW who is the NIC rep for your ward/ I have no clue.
Lucille Van Son
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neither do I
Bea McManis
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Well, according to Council President Charlie Mallow; "The proposed change is the result of city officials and the Neighborhood Improvement Committee’s unsuccessful attempts to get everyone to comply with city codes,." Sounds like the ward reps went along with this.
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Beth, city rules would not be imposed on rural town properties. The different tiers would not have the same level of service or taxes.
John Roach
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I agree with Charlie only to the extent that the Tier system idea is put in a new, combined city/town charter. Right now, the tier system is only a recommendation and could be changed depending on who is writing the new law. It is not a fact that the Tier system will be approved, but it is a good idea.
Charlie Mallow
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John is correct. This language will have to be spelled out. These questions are also easy ones if you understand the concept of the tier system. Services are determined by the tier you live in. Your services would be paid for by the residents who reside in your tier for your tier. Tier 1 or city residents are not going to want to pay for code officers to work in Tier 3 areas. It’s also pretty obvious if someone lives in a Tier 3 area they don’t want that particular service. The consolidation committee is also keenly aware that the new Batavia would have distinct rural and city parts that would need different codes. An untidy yard isn’t a concern when your neighbor lives out of your line of site. In the city people live on top of each other and trash can bring pests to a whole block. There are different needs for each zone.
Beth Kinsley
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Understood. Thanks. I'm going home to weed whack.
John Roach
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The problem is that the Consolidation committee is NOT the group that will write the new rules. It will make a recommendation, but that is all. All we can hope for is that the good people are put on the new committee to write the rules, if the plan ever is approved by the voters. Councilman Bill Cox today, in the Daily News, makes a great point that too much is unknown at this time and more time is needed before we go forward. Right on Bill!
Craig Gillard
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How long will it be before the city tells me how to dress or when to wash my car.
C D
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Is this for real? Jail time for not keeping grass and weeds cut? I don't know where to begin on how overbearing this is. The idea alone makes me want to give anyone supporting it a swift kick in the behind.
Mark Potwora
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The city doesn't enforce the law about homeowners and store owner shoveling their sidewalk after it snows ..The city law says homeowners are responible for keeping sidewalks clear of snow..But yet they plow the sidewalks ,so mow our lawns also. Why enforce the weed law...
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Posted by Craig Gillard on June 23, 2009 - 7:05pm How long will it be before the city tells me when to wash my car. They already do that in places with drought. They have police that monitor streets to make sure you aren't watering your lawns, or washing your cars on days when your side of the street is designated 'dry'.
Mark Potwora
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According to city code you can't park in your front yard and wash your car...only can be in driveway..are they enforcing that rule..They are alot of codes to follow..People should read it..its on the citys web site..
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At least that's in cases of sever drought, and that makes sense.
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I have a problem with landlords that won't keep their property up. My neighbors are tenants and I would love to move the house next door to the landlord and see how he likes looking at it everyday and how it brings the whole neighborhood down.All winter the tenants stick garbage out in the back yard till spring, 90% of all the windows are broken out and taped pizza hut boxes are know used as windows with children in the house. Tenants are on Hud and once a year when their coming to inspect they for two days clean up and the landlord will cut the grass, but the rest of the year we have to look at it.I take pride in the care of my home and i'll never be able to sell it with the slobs next door and the absentee landlord who's a realator go figure!
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Patricia - you should contact Mike Smith at the City about the broken windows. When I bought my house there was a piece of plywood over a garage window that you couldn't even see from the road or from the neighbors and a citation was issued. They said that it was in violation of state code to have plywood on a window and that Sally Kuzon was cracking down on these things. Maybe she should crack down on your neighbor's landlord.
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Patricia, You could also ask City Council to bring up the slum lord law they buried about 4 years ago. You could post the address and name of the landlord on this site and the address of the property that is a problem. Maybe a picture. Go public with who you talk to and when.
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Well I agree with Richardson that some people are unable to keep their property neat and organized due to age or medical reasons. Heck, I have an idea maybe Dan Cherry could work for mininum wage and cut grass, pick up trash, or paint. I know he saids he has a disability issue with his foot, but if he can ride bike all over town he can ride a mower. Give him a stick to stab at the trash and put it into a bag. Then maybe we can stop paying these Milkers of Society so much hard earn tax dollars. I am sure Dan wouldn't mind contributing to society instead of taking! After all I wouldn't want a individual with a foot disability and mental issue feel unwanted.
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If this goes down, I am going to replace my lawn with gravel.
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I also find it interesting on how the city comes down on the home owner and turns a blind eye to the business owner. Sure the Salvation Army parking lot and store front need some work. Thats not going to stop me from buying flowers at Floral Fantasies. I would think they would be more upset with Santy's who never cut the weeds in back or side of there building and the ever growing junk yard of cars that have been behind there building for years faceing the Salvation Army parking lot. How about bricks crumbling from buildings on to Swan st.Bricks and weeds, what about the weeds growing between the new sidewalk bricks the city put in. Who's going to jail?

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