A new city law bars most property owners from allowing their grass to grow higher than eight inches.
The ordinance, approved unanimously by city councilors this week, calls for the city to give property owners who violate the statute 10 days to mow their lawns or else a city-hired contractor will do it for them.
The property owner would have to pick up the tab, officials said.
The new law aims “to deal with tall grass,” said city Councilor Craig Minor, who chairs the Ordinance Committee.
It bars most property owners – farmers are one exception – from allowing grass or weeds to stretch more than eight inches toward the sky An exception is made for ornamental grasses used in gardens.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said the law is “a great idea” but expressed concern that allowing ornamental grasses and weeds could wind up vexing enforcers.
Building Official Guy Morin, who is responsible for issuing warnings, said he’s not concerned about the exception for gardeners.
“We can tell the difference” between high, weedy lawns and gardens, Morin said.
Morin said the city opted not to impose fines for violators because its goal is simply to make sure people cut their grass.
City Councilor Mike Rimouski said he’s glad to see a crackdown in the offing.
Rimcoski complained about some tall grass mixed with garbage near the corner of Route 6 and North Main Street.
"That place is really to pot -- and I don't mean the kind that you smoke," he said.
Tall grass laws can be problematic.
Though many homeowners accept the logic of Frank Scott, an early landscape architect who once insisted “a smooth closely shaven surface is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban house,” some have adopted later arguments by environmentalists who are pushing for more natural yards.
A 1993 John Marshall Law Review article took a stand in favor of those pushing for a more environmentally friendly approach.
It argued that local weed laws serve “to protect and proliferate exotic mono-turf” that are “the most obvious example of humankind’s disregard for nature.”
Localities that have taken a more eco-friendly route tend to refrain from passing laws dictating grass height or allow bigger exceptions for homeowners who are trying to have yards that fit their climate and natural culture, according to the law review piece.
Those who favor height restrictions mostly due so for the same reason that blight laws exist, because overgrown, unsightly yards tend to detract from nearby property values and can contribute to undermining neighborhoods.
Bristol used to have a law requiring that grass be cut, but it was accidentally knocked out of the statute book during a revision of blight and code enforcement laws a few years ago.
During a discussion of the issue in committee last year, Rimcoski asked his colleagues, "Did you know that bamboo is classified as grass?"
"And marijuana is not," responded Minor. "Go figure."
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