City will mow your tall weeds and grass - for a steep fine

(WTHR photo)
City Cracking Down on Overgrown Lawns
Mowing ordinance
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Spring has sprung and thanks to all the rain, everything is growing like crazy, including grass and weeds.

But if you let them grow too much, it could cost you, which many property owners are now discovering.

Jerome Shaw with J&J Lawn Care was busy mowing and weed whacking a south side property Wednesday afternoon where the grass was knee-high and the owner desperate to get it mowed.

"A good friend called and said he got tagged by the city and was going to get charged in 48 hours if someone didn't come out and (mow) his yard," Shaw said.

Indianapolis, like several central Indiana communities, has a high weeds and grass ordinance. Indy's says grass and weeds can't exceed 12 inches. Those in violation, who are cited, get 10 days to mow. If they don't, the city does it for them at a cost of $363.

Dimitri Kyser with the city's Department of Business and Neighborhood Services said it's BNS' biggest enforcement effort through spring and summer.

"High weeds and grass can lead to several problems, many problems, whether it's blight and sometimes crime. Once someone sees a property with high weeds and grass, nine times out of ten, individuals will think that property is not occupied, so they could be casing the property, even squatting in it," Kyser said. "Then there's vermin and rodents...and when you have high weeds and grass you can have standing water that leads to mosquitoes."

William Smith who lives on the east side said it's frustrating. He regularly mows his grass and keeps up his yard. Yet the next door property, which is a rental, has yet to be mowed this spring.

"It actually makes the neighborhood look bad...I think a lot of it is the rental properties around here and the owners not taking care of the properties," he said.

One tenant agreed, saying she had asked her landlord several times to have the grass mowed.

They're not alone in their frustration. Since May 1, BNS has received more than 1,800 complaints involving high weeds and grass — a number Kyser said is likely to grow to 10,000 by year's end if past years are any indication.

Thursday afternoon, an inspector was with him, rechecking and re-measuring a property just south of downtown.

Neighbors had mowed the front yard, but not the back. When the inspector put her yardstick next to the highest blades of grass, they easily exceed 12 inches. The inspector said during the height of the season, she'll check up to 100 properties a day.

The notices of violation, which are mailed to property owners, do get attention.

Susan Gilliatt, who lives south of downtown, said she's been cited a couple of times while out of town.

"I just wasn't able to get he grass cut and dealt with as quickly as I should have," she said.

But Gilliatt did get her lawn mowed before that 10-day window. Asked if she thought the ordinance and mowing fee was fair, she replied, "Absolutely. It is a lot of money, but hopefully it gives (people) the incentive to comply and make your property look nice."

That $363 mowing fee certainly got the attention of Shaw's friend.

"I charged him a third of that to get it cleaned up," he said. "It looks a lot better and for a lot cheaper."

But not everyone is quick to comply. In 2018, BNS took in more than $1.1 million in mowing fees.

Those wanting to report properties in violation of the high weeds and grass ordinance can call the Mayor's Action Line (317) 327-4MAC or file a complaint online. Residents can check the status of a complaint at the Citizen's Access Portal.

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