Coon Rapids: Keep yards mowed or pay up

The lawn mowing season is now in full swing.

And Coon Rapids residents need to keep their yards mowed, otherwise they will face a citation from the city and a possible fine.

Grass/weeds more than eight inches high on properties in Coon Rapids are a code violation. Photo: city of Coon Rapids
Grass/weeds more than eight inches high on properties in Coon Rapids are a code violation. Photo: city of Coon Rapids

The season began May 1 and runs through Sept. 30.

According to Kristin DeGrande, city neighborhood coordinator, city code requires that all grass and weeds be no taller than eight inches in height in yards (front, back and side).

And that includes along fence lines and the outside of the fence as well as the boulevard, DeGrande said.

“Dandelions grow the fastest and tallest,” she said.

City inspectors responding to a neighbor’s complaint of long grass/weeds will go to the property and use a measuring stick to determine the height, DeGrande said.

But that it does not necessarily have to be a neighbor’s complaint to generate an inspection, she said.

Inspectors en route to check out a complaint will follow-up if they see properties along the way with long grass/weeds, DeGrande said.

“The inspection is all based on height,” she said.

Inspectors will digitally photograph the stick measurement of the grass/weeds with the address of the property labeled, DeGrande said.

Properties where all or part of the yards have grass/weeds more than eight inches in height will receive an administrative citation.

According to DeGrande, the citation will be posted on the property and a copy will be mailed to the property owner of record, whether or not the owner lives at the address or not.

Before last year, when the administrative citation process was introduced for grass/weed violations, only the property was posted that it was not in code compliance, DeGrande said.

The citation gives the property owner seven days to mow the property before another inspection takes place, she said.

If the property is mowed before the next inspection and it’s a first violation, there is no charge; if not, then a $300 penalty is assessed to the property, DeGrande said.

And the city will come out and mow the property, she said.

However, if the property owner appeals the citation before the compliance date listed, then the fine is put on hold until the appeal is heard by the city’s Board of Adjustment and Appeals, according to DeGrande.

In the even of a second or subsequent long grass/weeds citation within 180 days there will be a $150 charge, regardless whether the property is mowed within the seven-day compliance period or not, she said.

In past years, the city has contracted with a vendor to mow properties in violation of the code, DeGrande said.

“But that proved administratively time consuming and cumbersome,” she said.

This year the city parks department will be doing the mowing in addition to its regular upkeep of the city’s parks and trails, DeGrande said.

Two additional seasonal employees have been hired to deal with the increased work load as well as to work on other parks department projects, she said.

In addition, after an inventory was done of existing parks department equipment, the Coon Rapids City Council earlier this year approved the purchase of a new mower and trailer.

The trailer is needed to haul away all the grass clippings, DeGrande said.

The spike in mortgage foreclosures and rental properties in Coon Rapids that began in 2008 prompted a significant increase in the number of grass/weed complaints, according to statistics provided by DeGrande.

The numbers jumped from 397 in 2006 to 546 in 2007, 894 in 2008 and 1,244 in 2009.

The number of complaints declined to 1,170 in 2010 to 1,101 in 2011.

But DeGrande said the number of abatements dropped from 374 in 2009 to 306 in 2010 and 155 last year.

But in 2011, for the first time property owners were notified of the potential $300 fine for the code violation, according to DeGrande said.

“It is important that we all do our part to keep our city looking its best,” DeGrande said.

A long grass concern hot line has been set up by the city; it’s 763-951-7200.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]