DAVISON TWP. — Following board approval of a new procedure for notifying residents of lawn mowing violations, the township is ready for tougher enforcement this spring and summer.
The Davison Township Board of Trustees approved a new procedure for enforcing lawn mowing at its March 11 meeting, giving property owners fewer notices and a higher fee if the township has to mow it for them.
“We’ve had issues in the past where our code enforcement officer was chasing his tail for violation notices and the procedure we used last year,” said Jeremy Smith, planning and zoning administrator for Davison Township. “Last year, every time there was a violation, we sent out a violation notice, because the way the ordinance is written in our book.”
Previously, the ordinance only required the township to publish the ordinance about lawn mowing I the local newspaper in the spring and fall. The procedures approved March 11 provide the township with the process to operate the code enforcement side of it, in between those newspaper postings.
“This makes it so don’t have to send a violation notice every time (code enforcement) wants to go out, he was chasing his tale all summer long trying to get people to mow vacant lots, basically, and the main offenders were people who don’t live in town,” said Smith. “So, they didn’t necessarily adhere to our ordinance. Now, if anyone questions anything going forward, we can give them this copy of our procedures as well.”
Smith said the new procedure will also be included in violation notices when they are mailed.
The township will now only send notice to violators of the ordinance once before taking action. Once a property owner receives one notice, the township can return as many times as is necessary throughout the season to mow without sending additional notices, said Smith.
Trustee Lori Tallman asked how often the township has to mow properties left unattended in the township over a typical summer. Smith said they have a couple of habitual offenders who have to be mowed 6-8 times a year depending on how wet the season is, and how fast grass grows.
Previously, the township charged property owners $192 per mowing, but that rate will be assessed this year at $330, taking into account the time and labor expended by township employees and mowers to bring about enforcement of the ordinance.
Tallman said while she agrees there should be enforcement of the ordinance, she said she thinks the township should give property owners more than one chance to comply.
“I feel like only giving them one notice isn’t really fair,” she said. “I don’t think we should have to do it every time, like you say, but I wonder if maybe we’d be better off saying notice first and second time, after that they don’t get any more notices.”
Smith said this is the way he did code enforcement when he held that job and it was only last year the township started requiring multiple notices, which placed a lot more work on the code enforcement officer.
“It was wasted time of (code enforcement’s) time, it wasted my time, it was a waste of postage, a waste of paper,” said Smith. “It was just a big waste of resources.”
Treasurer Tim Green said he lives in Woodbridge subdivision and across from his house is a vacant lot which he frequently calls the township about because the property owner doesn’t mow.
He said every time he complains the township has to send out a notice, then give the owner a certain amount of time to mow it – which meant the lot across the street was only mowed twice last summer.
“I said something here should change on this because this isn’t right,” said Green. “You guys are out there spinning your wheels, you’re driving out there, sending the letters and I said what can we do? Jeremy said we have a really strong ordinance on this, but it got changed for some reason.”
Smith said the township believes the $330 bill for mowing, which is tacked onto the property taxes as a special assessment, is a fair accounting of the township’s time and effort to enforce the ordinance.
“If they get a $330 bill, they’re going to mow it really quick,” Green agreed.
Tallman said her concern is habitual offenders will consider the assessment to be cheaper than hiring someone to mow the property, but Smith said the new procedures open it up so the township can mow unattended properties more frequently, thus making it more affordable for the property owner to do it themselves.
“They’ll get 10 days to comply,” said Smith. “They’re going to get a bill, and this can be done 6-8 times a summer. That will affect the pocketbook at $1,200-2,500 a season…they are going to comply.”
Tallman said her other concern were residents who have a crisis or other problem which keeps them from mowing for several weeks and they are only given one opportunity to correct the situation.
Smith said the township is willing to work with anyone.
“People have to make that phone call reach out to us,” he said. “We’ll work with them.”
The board approved the new procedures unanimously.