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City sends warnings to high-grass homes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The weather is beginning to warm, and that means people around the city are firing up their lawnmowers to give their yards a trim. Well, some people.

The Charleston building department already has sent 267 letters to residents warning them to mow their lawns or face a fine, said Tony Harmon, building commissioner.

The overwhelming majority went to property owners on the West Side, Harmon said. That includes the flat section, the hill and North Charleston. The city sent 208 letters to property owners in those areas.

"The West Side's a large area," he said. "So that probably has something to do with the high number of letters."

Twenty letters were sent to property owners in the East End warning them that their grass had exceeded the allowable 10 inches in height. Thirty-nine letters were sent to property owners in Kanawha City and South Hills.

The building department began sending the warning letters about three months ago, Harmon said. Six inspectors cover various parts of the city looking for violations.  

Harmon could not immediately provide the total number of letters sent last year. However, he believes more letters have been sent so far this year than during the same period last year.

He thinks the weather may be a factor.  

"We'd have warm weather and the grass would grow and then we'd get a cold snap," he said. "It just seems like people didn't get out and start their lawn mowers up."

Property owners are given five days to mow after receiving the letter warning them that they are in violation, Harmon said. If the grass is not mowed, the property owner is fined $100.

The fine increases every five days until it reaches the maximum of $500.

This process allows the city to get the problems quickly addressed, Harmon said. The city was able to enact this process under its home rule powers.

Before home rule, the city had to issue a warning letter to the property owner, who then had 21 days to correct the problem.

The owner could have cut the grass within the 21 days before allowing it to become overgrown yet again, Harmon said. But the process would have had to start over.

If the property owner did not address the issue under the old system, then a citation was issued and the owner was brought before a municipal judge.

"This way saves the city time and money," Harmon said.

Most property owners cut their lawns once they receive the warning letter, he said. However, some are fined.

"Most of them keep their grass cut once they get fined," he said.

The city public grounds crews are forced to cut some lots where property owners cannot be located or if they refuse to address the situation or pay the fines, Harmon said.

High grass creates a health hazard, he said. Rodents and other pests can hide in high grass and move into other yards and homes.

The grass also dries and becomes a fire hazard, Harmon said.     

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at ;


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