ENON – Enon Mayor Tim Howard says it may be time for village council members to review and possibly amend several codified ordinances that have been on the village’s books for a number of years.
Howard’s proposal came in response to a village resident’s complaint during its latest July 28 council meeting, about enforcement procedures relating to Ordinance 521.12. Passed in September 2013, the ordinance prohibits the blowing and disposing of all grass clippings and leaves, as well as the disposing of dead plants, weeds, tree branches and dead trees in all public rights of way in the village.
As he stood before village council members, Brian Miller held up a clear, two-gallon storage bag filled with brown grass clippings which he said had recently brought about legal consequences for him. Miller noted that he was seeking a solution concerning a citation he received for the grass clippings that had collected in the public right of way in front of his residence located on the 500 block of Brunswick Drive.
“I received criminal charges for this, and this is not the type of grass you smoke,” Miller said.
Miller stated that he first laughed when he received the official letter from the village informing the Enon resident of the code violation. However, he quickly became very frustrated over the fact that a little grass in the street, which Miller noted he did not place there, would be viewed as a criminal matter.
According to Miller, the letter stated that he had five days to comply, or the village would levy any costs incurred by the village for the removal of the trimmings, along with imposing a citation. Miller reemphasized that he had never blown grass clippings into the street but quickly swept up the debris in compliance with the order. He proposed that village council members reconsider the type of penalties imposed on violators of the nuisance ordinance and suggested that the village become more proactive in educating residents about village ordinances and laws.
“I suggest that council would consider the violation as more of a civil matter rather than a criminal one too,” said Miller.
Miller, who has been a code enforcement officer for 23 years, also told council members that he generally used less threatening methods when approaching and dealing with individuals who may have violated a particular codified ordinance, and his professional practices had been effective.
“Maybe better people skills could be used when approaching a resident about this type of issue,” Miller said. “I believe that a more village-friendly message would be more efficient.”
Howard told Miller that council had addressed the matter during the July 14 council meeting, and he agreed that council needed to possibly amend the ordinance.
“I believe that it would be a good idea for council to go back and not just take a second look at this ordinance, but take a second look at all the nuisance ordinances that have been written up in the same matter as this one,” Howard said. “Maybe, we should ask if these types of penalties are useful.”
The mayor pointed out that the task of establishing codified ordinances can be difficult for local government and at times, government officials adopt particular types of ordinances that have worked well for other municipalities.
Village Council President Stephen Trout noted that the nuisance ordinances had been on the village books for years, but the village had stepped up enforcement of several codified ordinances after recently receiving a number of complaints from village residents.
“Maybe the penalty does not match the offense, and I think that is what the mayor is pointing out to us,” Trout said.
Council Member Lorri DeVore told Miller that the village had made an effort to educate residents about certain nuisance ordinances by placing reminders on village water bills, and local media had informed residents as well.
Howard also noted that the village had been dealing with the issue of yard debris and grass clippings being blown directly into the street in front of several residential properties along Brunswick Drive.
“I have witnessed it myself,” Howard said. “It has become a problem this summer. Therefore, Mr. Miller may have received the letter in error.”
Miller concluded by saying he supports the codified ordinances. However, he advocated further discussion by council regarding the procedures for enforcing the ordinance.
In May, village officials stepped up enforcement of a number of codified ordinances after several complaints were made regarding a number of nuisance properties in the village. At that time, Howard noted that village officials would be looking for specific code violators, including those renters and homeowners who were storing junk and unlicensed vehicles outside their residence.
Village Ordinance 303.09, which council passed in June 1980, states that a written notice will be issued to any property owner who is storing a vehicle in an inoperative or unlicensed condition upon public or private property for more than 15 days. Once he or she receive the written notice from the Enon Police Department, the violator will have only five days to remove the vehicle or be assessed any costs incurred by the village in disposing the vehicle.
Village officials have also taken a stronger stance toward residents who have overgrown yards. During the May 12 village council meeting, Howard urged property owners to take pride in their neighborhoods and to make the necessary arrangements to have their lawns mowed if they personally are unable to do so.
According to Village Ordinance 557.02, once the grass exceeds a height of 12 inches, property owners will receive a written notice, giving them five days to fix the problem. If they do not comply, village officials will mow the lawn at the property owner’s expense. Tenants and homeowners must control weed growth as well.
Village Ordinance 557.01, which was passed in February 1998, states that property owners must trim trees, plants and shrubbery overhanging a public street or sidewalk so that the lowest branches clear a height of eight feet. Property owners must also remove dead, decayed, or broken trees, plants and shrubbery that might possibly fall onto the sidewalk or street and trim back branches and growth that obstruct the view of traffic from all directions at any street intersection.
Council members will meet again in regular session 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11 in the council chambers at the Enon Government Center, located at 363 E. Main St.
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for the Greene County News.