GONZALES — At the July 12 city council meeting, a bit of discussion was had over an ordinance that would require residents to maintain a strip of grass in front of their homes.
The agenda item was an amendment to the code of ordinances regarding “tall grass and unsightly conditions” on private property. Per the new amendment, “It shall be unlawful for the owner of any lot or premises in the city to allow or permit weeds, rubbish or any other unsightly, objectionable or unsanitary matter of whatever nature to grow, accumulate or remain on the area between the property line and the curb line of adjacent streets and alleys, and where no curb exists, the area extending to the adjacent street or alley surface.”
Exempted properties are state highway median right-of-ways, agricultural areas such as crop production or grazing, and the cultivation and concentration of wildflowers from March 1-June 30 of each year that do not grow higher than 18 inches.
One resident, Keath White, rose to speak in the public comments section of the meeting, saying that it amounted to an unfair ordinance that the city enforced selectively. In the regular meeting, District 4 Councilman Dan Blakemore questioned how the city could ask residents to clean up their own property when the city struggles to take care of their own. District 1 Councilman Tommy Schurig agreed, noting that some city-owned property along Seydler St. was “embarrassing.”
Superintendent of Public Works William Ince addressed council on the enforcement of the ordinance. He said that his staff will address it first as an educational program before issuing citations. He agreed that the city needs to clean up their yards first before asking citizens to, which he intended to see to the next day. City Manager Tim Patek said that the city is experiencing shortages in staff and is doing the best with what they currently have.
If a residence is found to be in error of the ordinance, a pink warning tag will be placed on the door as a warning. If that does not get a response, officials will follow up with a phone call, then a letter, before legal action is sought. If the offense is not rectified and goes to court, it is classified as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250 for a single offense and $500 for two or more.
“[The city] has to get into compliance before we start issuing citations,” Blakemore said. A caveat was added to the amendment, asking that the ordinance not be implemented for another 60 days. The amended ordinance passed unanimously.
The land in question is the city easement in front of a property owner's property that usually holds some form of water or sewer line or electric utility. Patek said later that the ordinance would go toward city beautification, would cut down on tall weeds that breed mosquitos, and hopes that residents would take pride in their community.
“We just want people to maintain their property from the sidewalk to the curb,” Patek said. “We are going to talk to people and educate them as to what's going on, and hopefully by doing that, when they do the rest of their yard they can do that section to. It's a small amount.”