With summer comes green lawns, and with overgrown lawns come complaints.
Letters from Grand Forks and East Grand Forks city departments informing property owners their property has become a nuisance because of tall grass and weeds have landed in dozens of mailboxes so far this year.
In East Grand Forks, the city had sent out 24 letters as of Friday, which is about average, according to City Planner Nancy Ellis. Owners receive letters when grass or weeds reach a height of 6 inches or more.
"During the start of the season, it was hard because it was cold and wet and hard to get out, but since then it's been pretty quiet," Ellis said.
Across the river, Environmental Health Supervisor Javin Bedard said 129 letters have been sent to Grand Forks residents so far this year. Grand Forks doesn't have a height it considers grass and weed a nuisance defined in its city code, so it's up to inspectors sent out to decide if the property owner is in compliance.
"It's been really wet," Bedard said of this season. "We take the weather into account as well."
It's not just unmowed lawns that can earn property owners a letter.
"Often times people will have fences that block their backyard from the alley, so there's a 2- to 3-foot strip that's between their property and the paving or gravel of the alley," she said. "A lot of people tend to forget they still need to maintain that."
Areas where there is no grass also need to be maintained, as weeds can pop up there as well, Ellis added.
The type of weeds growing in a yard may also prompt a visit from city inspectors. Bedard said when department staff members come across purple loosestrife, which is considered a noxious weed, they ask people remove it from their properties.
If owners don't comply within the timeframe noted in a notice of violation letter, the cities will contract with mowing services to take care of the problem and charge the property owner.
Ellis said two lawns in East Grand Forks had been mowed by order of the city so far this summer.
In Grand Forks, Bedard said the Health Department had issued 21 orders for lawns to be cut, but sometimes property owners do beat the mowing companies to the job.
Neighbors often notice grass and weed problems long before city officials show up with a ruler.
Both cities allow residents to call in complaints or submit them online.
A new tool on the city of Grand Forks' website has made reporting complaints easier and faster for residents.
It even allows them to upload pictures of the problem property. Website users can view other complaints, comment on them and track their progress.
From May 15 to July 24, the city logged 223 long grass complaints through the GF311 reporting system.
"People utilize it a lot for that," city spokesman Peter Steele said of long grass complaints.
The city implemented the reporting system midsummer of last year so a full year of comparable long grass complaint data was unavailable.
To submit a complaint
Tall grass and weed complaints can be submitted online at goo.gl/kAu2e0 for Grand Forks properties and at goo.gl/91Y1lG for East Grand Forks properties.
Grand Forks complaints also can be called into (701) 746-4636 while East Grand Forks complaints can called into (218) 773-0124.
By the book
It is the duty of property owners to main grass and weeds on their land, including right-of-ways and berms. If a property falls out of compliance with city code, the owner will be sent a letter asking him or her to comply within a specific timeframe. If the property owner fails to do this, the city will send out a mowing service and charge the owner for work.
Full city code: Chapter 10 - Public and Sanitary Nuisances, goo.gl/VNKQqe.
East Grand Forks
Property owners are responsible for controlling plant growth on their property. The owner will receive a notice of violation if grass, weeds or other vegetation grow in excess of 6 inches. The plants must be brought in compliance within seven days from the notice being served. If the property owner fails to do this, the city will send out a mowing service and charge the owner for work.
Full city code: Chapter 98 - General Nuisances, goo.gl/VwV8uF.