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Code violations increase during summer, Brentwood officials find

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The warm summer weather brings out the residents for neighborhood barbecues, baseball games in the park and walks with their dogs along Brownsville Road.

It also triggers a rise in code enforcement issues and notices sent to Brentwood residents for violations of the borough code and property maintenance rules.

“The grass is growing. People are doing home improvements. Animals are outside much more often,” Councilwoman Stephanie Fox, chair of the borough's zoning and ordinance committee, said of the increase in code enforcement violations by residents in the summer.

Brentwood code officers issued 672 notices of code or property maintenance violations, or first-time notices to residents since January. Of that, 116 were in June, borough Manager George Zboyovsky said. Sixty-six of the first violation letters sent in June were for overgrown grass, weeds or hedges in the 1.5 square-mile borough, Zboyovsky said.

In 2013, about 1,500 violation letters were sent to residents, code enforcement officer Ralph Costa said.

If a resident does not comply, they can be cited by the district magistrate and issued a fine, typically between $300 and $500, with the maximum penalty for most violations for code and property maintenance set at $1,000, assistant code officer Eric Peccon said. If the resident does not pay that fee, a hearing will be scheduled before the magistrate, Zboyovsky said.

Code violation notices tend to increase in the summer.

“Grass and weeds are generally the number one item we're seeing in the summer,” Costa said.

In Brentwood, grass must be no more than 8 inches tall.

“All portions of the yards must be cut,” Fox said. “The hedges must not be allowed to encroach on the sidewalks or streets. The landlords are ultimately responsible for brush at rental properties.”

Overgrown grass and shrubbery isn't just a problem in the front yard, Peccon said. If there are weeds growing over walls or the grass is taller than 8-inches in the cracks in the pavement, that too is a violation.

Fox has seen grass as tall as three feet growing in the borough.

“It was disgusting,” she said.

Borough code officers walk or drive the streets to ensure there are no violations in the area and residents report concerns — which are always checked out by the code office, Peccon said.

For vacant properties, Brentwood will send a notice of a violation that the grass and shrubs are overgrown, Zboyovsky said. If there's no response, the borough will cut the grass and seek payment.

“It's not going to be instantaneous,” Costa said. The process of sending violation letters and waiting for a response takes time, he said.

Residents, too, have a right to cut their neighbor's shrubs and trees that encroach on their property — “straight up the line,” Zboyovsky said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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