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City mowing down list of unkempt yards

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The city of Watertown has received about 70 complaints about unmowed grass so far this year.

But most property owners have complied when the city’s code enforcement office ordered them to mow the unkempt properties or the Department of Public Works would do it and then charge them. The city ordinance has a 10-inch maximum limit for grass and weeds.

Once they are notified, property owners are given five days to clean up their yards.

Christine A. Shipley, the city’s code enforcement aide, said she is pleased that most properties were cleaned up before DPW crews had to do the work.

“It hasn’t been that bad,” she said.

As of Tuesday, DPW workers had mowed 16 properties, Public Works Superintendent Eugene P. Hayes said.

Violators are fined $150 by code enforcement. The fine covers paperwork and other tasks associated with taking resident complaints and notifying property owners.

In addition, the property owners are charged by the DPW for mowing. How much depends on the number of workers, hours and equipment needed for the job. The work might include removing old tires or raking the grass afterward, Mr. Hayes said.

The city has charged an average of $183.12 for the mowing jobs.

Those jobs can be as small as a residential yard or as large as the site of the former Mercy nursing home at 218 Stone St. For all but one property, it took an hour to get the lawn mowed.

The city charged one owner as little as $116.48 for a small yard on Superior Street; it charged $728.58 for the Mercy property.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham has said he would like the $728.58 bill to be waived since COR Development, Syracuse, probably will end up having to pay, rather than MGNH Inc., the Lake Katrine owner that is about to lose the property through foreclosure.

COR plans to acquire the property, tear down the buildings on it and replace them mostly with housing.

In 1990, the city had to make changes to the ordinance after a City Court judge ruled in favor of Martin A. Moot, who contended it was his constitutional right not to mow his lawn at 126 Ward St. Mr. Moot battled the city over the condition of his property several times over the years before his death in 2011.

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