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North Huntingdon residents want yard maintenance rule

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By Amanda Dolasinski
Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Just before Marbury Drive curves into a cul-de-sac, house No. 354 stands on a property that some say resembles a jungle bungalow more than a suburban home.

Neighbors complain about its appearance amid their vibrant flower boxes and trimmed hedges. Owner Margaret Paulone however, says she purposely has 500 different plants growing in her front and back yards.

Complaints to township commissioners, fire departments and zoning officers have been futile because North Huntingdon has no ordinance to regulate yard maintenance. Now, the neighbors of Marbury Drive have banded together to push the township to create one.

“I don't believe there's anything in the property maintenance code to regulate this,” said Andy Blenko, township planning director. “Under the present set of rules, there's really nothing we can do.”

A potential ordinance would have to be objective, something Blenko said he is unsure how to approach.

“It's tough for us to regulate,” he said. “It's like trying to regulate what color a house should be painted. It really comes down to aesthetics. How do you set an objective standard?”

Paulone's two-story blue house on Marbury Drive is blocked from street view by vegetation, including tall decorative grass, ivy and pine trees.

If such an ordinance passes, she said she's not sure she would conform.

“If it says I have to dig out all my plants, then no I'm not going to comply,” she said. “That's unconstitutional.”

Paulone said some of the plants are taller than she would like. It has been at least three years since she has trimmed some of the bushes and larger trees, she said.

Paulone said none of her neighbors have approached her regarding her yard. She calls herself an “avid gardener” and says she spent about $1,000 on different kinds of plants.

“These are plants. These are beautiful garden plants,” she said. “These plants are just being themselves.”

But beyond the appearance, neighbors have noted increased sightings of feral cats, raccoons and groundhogs.

“It's terrible,” Tom Regester, who lives a few doors down from the home, said. “I've called the fire company at least four times.”

Regester said he is particularly concerned with an ivy plant that has wrapped itself around a telephone pole and extended its reach to the top wires of the pole.

Neighbor Stephen Dorazio, who has collected 23 signatures on a petition, said the home is causing “health and safety” issues, among other things.

“I'm sick of it,” Dorazio said. “It's defacing the value of my house. It just needs to be rectified.”

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.



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