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Borough sends overgrown lot
 rules to planning

Richard Fulton

(5/17) The Carroll Valley Borough Council decided at their May 14 meeting to have the borough Planning Commission review existing regulations concerning overgrown lots to evaluate enforceability.

The decision to have planning look at the rules stemmed from conversations that occurred at the meeting regarding complaints received regarding a specific lot in the borough.

Because complaints received centered on overgrown, undeveloped lots, borough Manager David Hazlett asked the council is they would like the Code Enforcement Officer Dave Baker to add the inspection of unimproved lots to the list of routine inspections that already occur.

Presently, the code enforcement officer only routinely inspect developed tracts regarding enforcement of regulations governing vegetative growth. As the issue presently stands, inspections of undeveloped tracts occur only when complaints are received.

"We donít actively enforce it (regulations that would govern growth on undeveloped lots) unless our feet are held to the fire (through complaints)" Hazlett stated.

As the council and Hazlett reviewed the ordinance in questions, questions arose regarding the potential obscurity of terms used and the definition, or lack thereof, of those terms.

Basically, the borough ordinance governing vegetative growth on any undeveloped or occupied lot prohibits allowing the growth of noxious weeds, the accrual of debris, and/or allowing certain vegetative growth to exceed 12 inches in height.

However, a number of points of contention appear in the text of those restrictions generated concerns regarding definitions and enforceability of the regulations.

In particular, in the section of the regulations which prohibits allowing the growth of noxious weeds the ordinance further elaborates only if the growth of any noxious weeds "results in creating a clear and convincing nuisance or health hazard to the occupants of a neighboring property.

Council members questioned the use of "clear and convincing nuisance or health hazard" as being too obscure and open to a lot of interpretation.

Additionally, the same section states, regarding the accumulation of debris, "that would constitute a fire hazard," is prohibited.

Regarding "fire hazard," Councilman Neil Abrams stated, "This is the stuff that borders on the ridiculous (because) woodlands are a fire hazard (by their very nature)."

Regarding the limit of the height of vegetative growth, the ordinance states that the 12-inch height limit applies only to "any grass or weeds or vegetation whatsoever, not edible or planted for some useful or ornamental purpose."

The ordinance does not state edible by whom (i.e. for human consumption) or address wild vegetation which is also edible.

The council decided to refrain from making any decisions relating to the ordinance at their May meeting and pass the ordinance on to the planning commission for their review and recommendations.

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