Uncut North Huntingdon lawns could cost

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

An uncut lawn could become a big expense.

During the spring and summer, municipal officials in the area plan to cite property owners who let their lawns become overgrown and unkempt. Overgrown grass creates an eyesore, sometimes attracts rodents and snakes, and could cause neighbors to become apathetic, said Andrew Blenko, North Huntingdon's planner and engineer.

“Uncut properties tend to lead to a gradual decline of other properties in a neighborhood,” Blenko said.

North Huntingdon officials wait until grass grows to a foot before taking any action.

Once the township's code-enforcement officer cites property owners, officials give them three weeks to cut their grass — or else.

“In most cases, a property owner will get busy and cut their lawn when they're notified,” Blenko said.

An overgrown lawn could become a high expense when township crews need to step in, Blenko said.

According to township ordinances, officials charge $25 per hour for labor and $75 per hour if a tractor is needed. The cost of mowing becomes a lien against the property, along with $91.50 in solicitor's and filing fees, Blenko added.

“In addition to the man hours consumed in cutting the grass, there is significant clerical and legal time involved,” Blenko said.

The average cost comes to about $282, Blenko said.

Last year, township officials cited 42 properties for overgrown lawns.

North Irwin officials do not take action against a property owner until the grass on a lawn is about eight inches, manager Adele Nehas said.

Each year, borough officials handle about a half a dozen complaints about overgrown lawns, Nehas said.

“We give residents three to seven days after we send a notice, and most of it gets done,” Nehas said. “I've been here for five years and only remember one time the borough took someone to court (for not complying).”

Nehas said the borough levies fines of at least $300 to anyone who doesn't cut the grass after receiving correspondence.

Irwin officials require residents to not let their grass grow more than 7 inches, according to public-works director Jim Halfhill.

When the grass becomes overgrown, Halfhill, said he attempts to meet with the property owner before sending a letter asking that the grass be cut.

If there is no response, borough officials hire a private landscaping crew to cut the yard, which comes with a bill of $75 to $150, he said.

“We deal with a couple dozen of these cases per year, and we're not in the business of cutting grass and maintaining yards,” Halfhill said. “Our biggest problems with overgrown lawns come from people who no longer live in their properties or have been foreclosed upon.”

Halfhill said neatly trimmed lawns are important for not only the property itself but for the entire neighborhood.

“That kind of blight and neglect can bring property values down,” Halfhill said. “It really takes away the entire curb appeal from the entire area.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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