Washington nuisance abatement officer reminds residents to follow city ordinances

By Gretchen Teske, GTNS News

As spring weather finally rolls around, the City of Washington’s nuisance abatement officer Jason Peterson would like to inform residents that ordinances are in place designed to keep the city not only clean, but safe for area residents.

Peterson said numerous complaints from motorcyclists and bicyclists have been gathered regarding grass clippings being in the street. This creates not only a dangerous situation for bicyclists and motorists, but for residents, as those grass clippings eventually end up in sewer drains.

“That grass gets like grease for those bicyclists and motorists,” he said. “Furthermore, it gets into the storm drains and clogs it, then we have water backed up onto the street.”

Peterson suggests homeowners mow two rings around their yard with the offshoot facing into the yard so the clippings end up in the yard and not on the street. A small amount of grass clippings on the street is not a major concern, Peterson said, but anything people can do to help ensure safety of the public is appreciated.

“You can tell when somebody has done what they’re supposed to, versus someone who hasn’t,” he said.

According to city ordinance, any grass taller than eight inches gives the city the right to abate. Abatement happens in the form of a door hanger that explains the homeowner has 48 hours to mow the grass or the city will mow for them and send them the bill.

If the city has to move forward with hiring a contractor to mow the yard, the homeowner will then have 30 days to pay the bill. If they fail to do so within that time period, it will be assessed on their property taxes.

“One way or another, if people think they’re going to get out of it, they’re not,” he said.

Peterson said the city is taking weather conditions into consideration and is trying to build in a grace period for people, but specifically those who have not mowed yet this season will be served a notice.

“We’re trying to work with them, (but) as a city, we’re not a grass-cutting contractor,” he said. “I don’t want to hire people to cut the grass. It’s not our gig. But if it has to happen, it has to happen.”

Another problem Peterson is seeing is people parking their vehicles in yards. According to city ordinance, junk or “inoperable” vehicles cannot be on private property. Junk vehicles are defined as not being able to operate on a roadway for reasons such as having a missing or defective part, being on blocks, no current license or not having all tires inflated.

Operable vehicles may be stored outside on a temporary basis, not to exceed 24 hours, only if they are parked or stored on an all-weather surface area. An all-weather surface area cannot be grass or dirt and must be asphalt, concrete, brick pavers or gravel able to support the weight of the vehicle.

Those who do not abide by this will be served a warning explaining they need to remove the vehicle. If that warning is not obliged by a second warning will follow, and a third will be delivered via certified mail, usually from a police officer, where the homeowner will need to sign, agreeing they are aware they are breaking city ordinance. On the third warning, which the resident signs, there will be a date and time the vehicle needs to be removed by; typically 10-14 days. If the vehicle is not moved after that point, the city reserves the right to tow the vehicle.

Peterson said it is important for people to abide by these rules and ordinances because they were created with the safety of the community in mind.

“A lot of this stuff is safety-driven first and foremost,” he said. “As a community, the city has come together and adopted these ordinances of what’s proper for the city. So I think it’s important if you’re going to have codes, you enforce them ... We’re just trying to keep the neighborhoods looking nice because property value is important.”