The Houston City Council will study making changes to its grass cutting policy in the community. The discussion came Tuesday night during a meeting at city hall.

The review comes after the city curtailed some of its mowing efforts that historically have been performed by its workforce.  

Mayor Willy Walker said the city has not changed anything on the books, but had started to follow its own policy after decades of growth in its portfolio of required mowing. He’s had few complaints he told the council.

The review initiative was sparked by Ward III Alderman Ross Richardson who said he’s troubled about the appearance of the community and some requirements that the city must follow to mow property that continually is an eyesore.

Members were presented a packet of information gathered by City Administrator Scott Avery related to how the matter is handled in other communities with code enforcement, along with a court of appeals decision on right-of-way, easements and responsibilities.

So what might be addressed?

ordinance

Richardson suggested a look at:

•A continuation of an 18-inch tall rule within 100 feet of any commercial or resident structure that triggers mandated mowing under city ordinance. In 2011, the council lowered the maximum from 24 inches to 18 inches. Under the current system, notification is made before the city can step in and bill the landowner for the job. Richardson said he favors eliminating a second notification for repeat offenders to speed up the process.

One proposal would eliminate multiple notifications to offenders who allow tall grass on their property. Credit: FILE PHOTO

In some cases now, property owners spray a ditch line to eliminate any mowing.

•A review of special needs of residents, including senior citizens and those with handicaps. In those cases, the city might do the mowing for a reduced, flat fee.

•Continue line of sight mowing at intersections.

•A bigger question, responsibility — Who is in charge of mowing right-of-ways and easements?  Richardson said he wants it clear among the council and citizens who has the responsibility to do the chore. “I think that is the biggest thing that we have to decide,” he said. “There has been a lot of discussion about this.”

One question being explored by the council is who is responsible for rights-of-way in the city. Credit: File photo

Richardson added, “I just want a well-kept community. It’s a pride issue, too,”

Walker agreed that safety needs to be a priority.  He urged caution on the city mowing people’s ditches, but he wanted the city to look clean.

“I just feel like we’ve done it for decades and it has looked really nice and tidy and for some reason now we’re not doing it,” Angie Gettys, a Ward III alderwoman, said. Her colleague, Kevin Stilley, agreed, noting that a January 2020 housing study complimented the city for its appearance. “We probably wouldn’t get the same rating today,” he said, noting tall weeds growing along Walnut Street near the school district’s new gymnasium project.

Newly appointed councilman Sam Kelley touched on the current ordinance. “Too many people do not take responsibility for what they are supposed to do. All they have to do is look at the ordinance.”

Michael Weakly, Ward II alderman, asked, “Why is the beautification of Houston the sole responsibility of the city?”

The council will continue its review.

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