Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Keeping Properties to Code: A Landscape Maintenance Guide

Landscape maintenance professionals in Grants Pass have a duty to keep our customers’ properties maintained at least to the standards of the City’s nuisance code.    It pays to learn what those minimal standards are and tell our customers what we need to do so they will be within the law and not be a nuisance to their neighbors.  Not all nuisances are written into the law, however, and we should go beyond the City’s code to help our customers love their neighbors.

For instance, code 5.12.050 Weed, Grass, Snow and Ice Removal, applies only to sidewalks and does not mention leaves or rocks, but there is no good reason to allow weeds, leaves or rocks to remain anywhere on pavements, including the street in front of one’s property.  What’s the point in making a place neat and pretty if the street in front is a mess?  The City will not clean it up for you; the most they may do is drive by with a street sweeper.

            Many people ignore the area outside their fence, or even use it as a dumping ground, right along the street.  Code 5.12.050 section 2 requires one to maintain public right of way if it abuts a public sidewalk, but many streets in our town lack sidewalks.  That is no reason to inflict weeds and other eyesores on people walking, riding or driving by.  Everyone should clean well into the street, blowing leaves, dirt and rocks onto soil in one’s yard, where they belong.  Cyclists would love a clean street edge.

            The critical code is 5.12.060, Weeds and Noxious Growth.   It forbids weeds maturing and going to seed, and says that one must cut down or destroy them.  Weed control is seed control; our code targets weeds at the point when they are about to make seed and spread. 

Cutting doesn’t kill mature weeds and does not, therefore, bring one into compliance.  The false dandelions and other windblown weeds that invade unwatered lawns pop right back up with flowers, soon followed by seeds blowing all over the neighborhood.  Puncture vine lies under mowers and its seeds ride along to the next property on their tires.  Annual grasses keep putting up shorter stalks until they seed out under the mower blades. 

Pulling is the only real control for most weed seeds, and flowering, or maturity, is the point at which most are easiest to pull, but are not yet a nuisance.  Crabgrass is an exception; it is harder to pull when flowering, and should be pulled or smothered under mulch ASAP.

Noxious Growth is the other half of this ordinance, and this gardener would define it as any vegetation that is in the way of passersby or the neighbors.  The city asks us in leaflets to trim groundcovers 6 inches back from curbs to allow street sweepers to operate; this should be done even where the City does not sweep.

Last, and the least anyone should do, is keeping litter picked up, and not leaving grass clippings on pavements or ugly organic detritus in plain sight, covered in 5.12.070 Scattering Rubbish.  It doesn’t specifically mention any of these things except trash, but it does forbid anything that “which would mar the appearance, create a stench, or detract from the cleanliness” of a property.  The point of landscape maintenance is to make properties clean and orderly, even pretty.  Don’t let anything detract from that.

Landscape Nuisances selected from the Grants Pass Municipal Code, Title 5:

5.12.050 Weed, Grass, Snow and Ice Removal.

1. No owner or person in charge of property, improved or unimproved, abutting on a public sidewalk or right of way adjacent to a public sidewalk may permit:

A. Snow to remain on the sidewalk for a period longer than the first two hours of daylight after the snow has fallen.

            B. Ice to cover or remain on the sidewalk, after the first two hours of daylight after the ice has formed. Such person shall remove ice accumulating on the sidewalk or cover the ice with sand, ashes, or other suitable material to assure safe travel. (Ord. 2901 §9, 1960)

             C. Weeds or grass from growing or remaining on the sidewalk for a period longer than two weeks or consisting of a length greater than 6 inches.

2. Property owners and persons in charge of property, improved or unimproved, abutting on right of way adjacent to a public sidewalk shall be responsible for the maintenance of said right of way, including but not limited to: keeping it free from weeds; watering and caring for any plants and trees planted herein; maintaining any ground cover placed by the City; maintaining any ground cover as required by other sections of the Municipal Code or the Grants Pass Development Code. (Ord. 5380 § 18, 2006)

5.12.060 Weeds and Noxious Growth.

No owner or person in charge of property may permit weeds or other noxious vegetation to grow upon his property. It is the duty of an owner or person in charge of property to cut down or to destroy weeds or other noxious vegetation from becoming unsightly, or from becoming a fire hazard, or from maturing or going to seed. (Ord. 2901 §10, 1960)

5.12.070 Scattering Rubbish.

No person may throw, dump, or deposit upon public or private property, and no person may keep on private property, any injurious or offensive substance or any kind of rubbish, (including but not limited to garbage, trash, waste, refuse, and junk), appliances, motor vehicles or parts thereof, building materials, machinery, or any other substance which would mar the appearance, create a stench, or detract from the cleanliness or safety of such property, or would be likely to injure any animal, vehicle, or person traveling upon any public way. (Ord. 2901 §11, 1960; Ord. 4397 §1, 1981) (Ord. 5379 § 18, 2006)