The year of the weeds
The cleanup ordinance in Sunnyside City asks residents to take care and keep up their properties. Despite a few quirks that need to be addressed, the ordinance is working, city councilors said.
As the spring season arrives, Sunnyside City annually sends out notices to all of its residents to clean up their yards to help keep homes, neighborhoods and the city in general looking as asthetically pleasing as possible. Residents are given cleanup notices in April and May to begin cleanup work when the days with snow on the ground begin to wind down.
At the last city council meeting on Aug. 17, city councilors discussed the ordinance, how it is currently working, what problems need to be addressed and the possibility of having the cleanup continue through the entire year.
Mayor Doug Parsons said that the city needs to set a date, in March or April, when the letters go out notifying residents of the ordinance, providing them with enough time to comply. With his property, Parsons has seen the difficulty in trying to keep his property in compliance with weeds growing each month. He said he has cut weeds on his property in May, June, July and August and will probably need to do it again in September.
Parsons said he received a letter about the cleanup ordinance even through he has cut weeds on his property before. With the rain hitting the area throughout the summer months, the weeds have grown back very quickly, he said.
"It's just the nature of the beast," Parsons said noting that he spent $126 on poison to kill weeds on his property which did not work.
Councilwoman Nola Porter was put in charge by the city council to oversee and mail out notices to those properties that are not in compliance with the ordinance. Porter said that some properties from years past that were not well kept have done much better this year noting that the cleanup is working.
Porter has driven through the city taking notes on what properties need a notice sent in the mail throughout the past four months. Because of his own personal experience and the problems many people have with weeds, Parsons said that it may not be fair to cite someone in September after they made the effort to cleanup their property in the months of June, July and August. That person made a fair effort to cleanup, he said.
"Going around town there are people who have weeds from the beginning of the year and they haven't changed. They are still there and now they have even grown taller," Parson said. "Someone who consistently takes care and cleans their lot, you should leave them alone."
While it may be easy for Sunnyside to hand out notices to people who live in the city on a full-time basis, those that own a home in the area but live elsewhere pose a problem.
Councilman Kelly Maynes said that once a residence is cited then it has to go through the courts system. But for those people that live elsewhere the process can become a little more complicated. If they live out of state and they are cited, it then goes to court and if they don't appear there a warrant gets issued. But at that point the city is left with few options, Maynes said.
"We can't do anything," Maynes said. "It (the property) can sit with a warrant until the warrant expires and that could be years down the road."
The city could start putting a lien on the properties to get owners to keep in compliance, Parsons said. One way to find information about a property owner from out of the area is to go through the county assessor's office and find out who is paying the taxes on the property and then send the notice to them, Maynes said.
"We're punishing people that live here and we're not punishing those that have a house here but live somewhere else," Parsons said. "We need to figure out what we can do."
Another issue the city needs to look after is safety when notifying residents that their property needs to be cleaned up, Maynes said. The number one fight with people he has as a law enforcement officer takes place when going to a resident's property to tell them that their property is a mess, he said.
"If Nola is going to someone's door, that's a huge safety concern for her," Maynes said.
Another area that could be fixed next year is to create a committee focusing on the ordinance. Councilwoman Shari Madrid suggested putting a committee together with a group of people who would then be responsible for a certain area of the town.
While the residents are being asked to keep their properties clean, Councilman Tony Riffle said the city needs to do its part and keep city owned areas clean as well.
"If the city doesn't keep their properties clean, then nobody should have to keep clean," Riffle said.
In her first year in charge of overseeing the ordinance, Porter said the ordinance has really improved the area and a majority of those who received notices have cooperated
"It's really improved the area," Porter said. "It helps make the area look better and we want to be proud of our community."