NEW: Unruly grass is growing concern for city

City Administrator Larry Sutton said he hasn’t seen grass grow as this rate in 15 years. Some landowners apparently aren’t keeping up.

Sutton’s office has steadily received complaints this summer as yards and lots grow out of control. Although the areas – with unruly weeds and tall grasses – are eyesores, Sutton said in most cases his hands are tied.

“Some people think they can make a call and the city will tell them to mow it,” Sutton said. “No, that’s not the case. I have to follow the law through ordinances.”

That ordinance states that grass or weeds must exceed 2 feet before the city becomes involved. A certified notification letter is mailed to the residence and homeowners have five days to mow.

Sutton said high grass isn’t an overwhelming problem in Houston, but it is a concern. The city mailed five letters to homeowners the first week of June and has since sent out four more. At least two complied.

Sutton personally drives around town weekly to check yards. City crews also keep an eye out for overgrown yards. Sutton said he receives many calls from irritated neighbors, but more than half the time the property they are reporting doesn’t meet the requirement for the city to step in.

“It has to be 2 feet or taller before I can even start the process,” Sutton said. “If I go over there and it’s 15-18 inches, I’m another week or two away. Yeah, it looks terrible, but I can’t help that.”

He believes 2 feet is the appropriate height to begin forcing residents to mow.

“I think it’s reasonable,” Sutton said. “Otherwise, you’d have to hire a full-time employee to be the monitor.”

If five days pass after receipt of the registered letter and the property hasn’t been mowed, Sutton said the city mows the property, and the bill is charged to the tax bills for the property.

Sutton said the entire process is quite a headache. It costs the city $5.40 per registered letter, plus time spent to monitor overgrown properties. He also said it can be difficult to discover if a home has been foreclosed or if the owner doesn’t reside there.

Sutton said if his neighbor’s yard was overgrown, he’d handle the problem himself.

“If it was me and my neighbor is letting the yard go and I couldn’t stand it, I’d go over there and mow it,” he said.

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