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Tall grass can mean big fines

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

(6/27) Now that summer's here and people are spending more time outside, it's also time to start paying more attention to your lawns or face fines in Thurmont.

"It's considered a health and safety issue," said Thurmont Acting Chief Administrative Officer Rick May. "Tall grass creates a habitat for insects and creatures that could have an adverse health impact on people."

Thurmont's lawn ordinance requires property owners in town to cut their lawns if the grass grows higher than 10 inches. It was changed to this stricter height in 2005 when it used to be 18 inches tall.

"When we get a complaint, we have to go out and measure the grass," said Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler. "If it's too high, we issue a warning."

The warning says the property owner has six days to get the grass cut or face a $50 fine and for each day the grass remains uncut, the fine increases another $50. The town can also charge the property owner a $50 administrative charge.

"What we're running into is that people just don't care about the fine," Eyler said.

Eyler said he wants to propose changes to ordinance to strengthen it so the town doesn't have to wait years to receive reimbursement.

At this time of the year, Eyler said that his department is sending out letters around time days a week. By they end of the season, Thurmont Police will probably send out 125 letters to residents who need to cut their grass.

"Everyday it seems like we're getting a letter ready to send out," Eyler said.

Most people will take care of the problem, though there always seem to be a few who just don't care about the fine. In those instances, the town can take the landowner to court.

"We can also hire somebody to go ahead and mow the grass and then we can seek reimbursement," Eyler said.

If the person still refuses to pay, the fine becomes a lien against their property.

"We will always be successful in collecting the fine because it stays with their property and when they want to sell it, it will have to be paid," May said.

The town also has ordinances that cover rubbish, junk, and unlicensed, unregistered cars in yards. They work much the same way the grass ordinance does.

"It is really just asking people to be a good neighbor," Eyler said.

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