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Seven Fields' warning on nuisances carries $25 fine

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 9:48 p.m.

Seven Fields residents who don't clear snow off sidewalks or mow their grass will get more than a polite letter from the municipality from now on telling them to shape up.

Under a revised nuisance ordinance, first-warning letters will come with a $25 fine.

“We have been sending the same warning letters out to the same people again and again. It has become problematic. And too much of the staff's time is devoted to this,” said borough manager Tom Smith.

The municipality issued its first citation under the new ordinance on Thursday on a dog-related complaint, Smith said.

The borough council approved the change Feb. 25 on a 3-1 vote, with member Kevin Caridad voting against it.

The borough fines for all kinds of infractions, including keeping junk on property, throwing cut grass into catch basins, skateboarding and letting dogs run loose.

Seven Fields is one square mile, home to 3,200 residents and has 15 miles of streets. Some residents said they were ambivalent about the need to revise the code.

“Everyone where I live takes care of the snow in front of their homes. But when I go walking, I do see homes where the owners have not removed snow from the sidewalks in front,” said Karen Musulin, a Seven Fields resident.

Walking is popular among residents, Smith said.

Other than failure to remove snow, Musulin said, she does not view any of the nuisance infractions as chronic.

Failure to pay on time and correct a violation within a set time results in citations, fines and other penalties, attorney's fees and court costs, according to the borough's standardized letter. Residents who want to appeal the fines can speak with him, Smith said.

While the ordinance covers a variety of infractions, failure to remove snow and ice from sidewalks is the most persistent problem in the borough, Smith said.

Seven Fields is not the only place that issues fines with a first warning. Aspinwall has a similar ordinance and was the model for Seven Fields, Smith said.

And residents of some municipalities face steeper fines without warning.

At the end of December, six Sharpsburg businesses were fined $300 each and required to appear in court for failing to remove snow in front of their stores.

“This is a problem that will never go away. You have people who always do it and people who never remove snow. I think these business people got the message,” said Sharpsburg police Chief Leo Rudzki Jr.

Most communities in Pennsylvania have snow removal ordinances, said Rick Schuettler, director of the Association for Pennsylvania Municipal Management in Harrisburg.

“How they are enforced varies. Habitual violators will probably get nailed,” Schuettler said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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