In the Weeds

10

As the city council looks at a new tall grass ordinance, Gloria Cassady fights for her homeowner rights

Westfield resident Gloria Cassady is in a fight to save her lawn. The hot weather and drought conditions have already ruined the grass, but the retired Beacon Point subdivision homeowner is fighting resistance to present a different, ecological yard.

“Everything I’m doing I have a right to do,” Cassidy was told by legal advisors. “When I look out my door I want to see green, not neighbors. . . When I envisioned it, it would have been beautiful by now.”

Cassady said she is trying to exercise her rights as a homeowner, but claims her HOA has stopped her illegally.

“I want to plant a garden and make improvements but was halted,” she said. “I read the HOA carefully before I bought the property.”

On May 7, the Beacon Point HOA president stopped Cassady’s workers.

“He demanded not so much as a single flower be planted until a comprehensive detailed landscape plan for my entire property is approved by the architectural design review committee,” said Cassady. “Feeling bullied but trying to be neighborly, I voluntarily paused implementation efforts and respectfully invited dialogue.”

Since Cassady halted her lawn’s transformation, a large mound of dirt sits in her front yard and the fenced in property behind her house has sections of grass two to three feet high. Cassady contends that describing her yard as haphazard or the thought that her grass is just allowed to grow is not the case.

“In its current condition because I’m not able to plant any flowers,” she said. “The mess you see damages me most of all. I want to be an asset to the neighborhood. No one is more daunted than me. I’m very concerned with property values in the whole neighborhood.”

Skelton

Cassady said her intent when she started digging was to have her yard in shape to celebrate her 65th birthday. Instead, Cassady celebrated her special day standing before the Westfield City Council defending her yard and plan to use beneficial landscaping.

At that council meeting, members were discussing potential changes to the city’s Tall Grass and Weeds Ordinance. Director of Community Development Matt Skelton said the city has made several minor wording changes to the original ordinance including the wording to include subdivision lots – describing but not identifying Cassady’s home.

“This is about extreme situations,” he said.

Skelton explained that the current ordinance is unenforceable for what was intended.

“The intent was to have something that looks enticing – different from what we see today,” he said. “She has a plan but the plan is not demonstrated.”

The changes to the ordinance involve minor word changes in the requirement to cut, violation notice and city to abate sections. The major change comes at the start of section 14 – “The following provisions in this Section 14 shall not apply to lots located within a residential subdivision secondary plat recorded after Sept. 7, 1977.”

Councilman Steve Hoover explained the ordinance was intended for farmland or larger properties.

“I never really envisioned this being in a subdivision with small lots,” he said. “Residents can choose not to have a lawn, but if you have a lawn it has to be mowed.”

Cassady views the new ordinance as a form of class division.

“I don’t think habitat should be exclusive to those that can afford 20 acres,” she said. “I want to show an example of what can be done.”

Skelton said the original ordinance started more than a year ago. Since it began, Skelton said the city has processed 25 to 30 properties and mowed 10 to 15. He said most are abandoned homes or negligent homeowners.

“We’ve had a lot of success administering this,” said Skelton. “It’s been a fantastic improvement.”

The second reading and possible consideration of the Tall Grass and Weeds Ordinance occurred after the printing of this article at the July 9 council meeting.

Changes to the Tall Grass and Weeds Ordinance

The following changes have been presented to the Westfield City Council:

Section 4. Requirement to cut. All owners of property located within the city shall cut and remove weeds and other rank vegetation growing thereon that Ordinance 11-2014 Tall Grass and Weeds exceeds a height of 12 inches, and shall keep their property clear of debris.

Section 5. Violation Notice. In the event of a violation of this chapter, the director and/or his designee, or an officer of the police or fire department shall issue a written notice to the violating landowner. The violation notice shall identify the violation and order the landowner to correct the same within 10 calendar days from the date on which the violation notice is served on the landowner. Posting notice conspicuously on the property in violation, personal service, service by U.S. certified mail, regular mail or any other manner service recognized in the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure shall constitute proper service upon the landowner for purposes of this chapter.

Section 7. City to abate. If the landowner fails to abate each violation set forth in a violation notice in a timely manner, the landowner shall be deemed to have granted permission to the city to enter the landowner’s property for the limited purpose of inspecting, cutting and/or removing such debris, weeds or rank vegetation located thereon and identified in the violation notice. In such case, the director, or his designee, shall prepare a certified statement as to the actual administrative and other costs incurred by the city in taking such action, and serve a copy of the invoice on the landowner. The landowner shall, within seven calendar days from the date on which the landowner is served with such invoice, pay in full the amount stated thereon to the Dept. of Community Development.

Section 14. The following provisions in this Section 14 shall not apply to lots located within a residential subdivision secondary plat recorded after Sept. 7, 1977. This chapter is not intended to apply to properties being utilized in an agricultural manner, or properties or portions of property that are clearly intended to remain in a natural state, such as, but not limited to, woods, forests, creeks, hedgerows, wetlands, wildflower preservation areas, nature preservation areas, and/or natural wildlife habitats. The director shall have discretion to determine whether the property in question qualifies under the exception stated herein.

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