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East Brewton: Judgment call for nuisance law

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER Managing editor
East Brewton City Council members are looking to tighten the city's grass and weed nuisance law, which could prove troublesome for violators waiting until the last minute to take action.
Under the city's grass and weed nuisance law, any overgrowth of grass or weeds that exceeds 12 inches in height is considered a violation of the nuisance law.
It is in the opinion of the code enforcer to determine whether the nuisance is bothersome to everybody that passes by it. It cannot be a nuisance to just one person.
The council is at liberty as far as what they want do to with enforcing the nuisance law, said Lawton Shipp, a city building inspector.
Shipp has been passing out citations and as of Friday, he had given out seven grass citations. Shipp has worked with the city for 11 years and is attempting to work with council members to determine whether a shorter time frame on abiding the citation should be imposed.
According to the city law, once a resident receives a citation, they have 14 days from the date of the notice if it is a grass or weed nuisance to take care of the problem. If a resident receives a citation for a building nuisance, they have 120 days and if it is any other type of nuisance they have 30 days to take care of the problem.
According to Shipp, once the problem goes to the judge, the judge will fine the violator. Then, he gives them a time frame to take care of the problem. If it's not taken care of within the time frame provided, it goes back to City Council members for penalty determination.
Councilman Wayne Howard believes the time frame should be shorter, but fair.
Shipp said that most of the time when a resident receives a summons to court they take action, and he usually gives them two choices.
Otherwise, they get a fine. The minimum fine is $250 with the maximum reaching $500. He added that the law does apply to out-of-town landlords, too. However, the leeway allows for repeat offenders.
Back in February, the council members made the abandoned car nuisance law a separate entity from the grass, weed, building and other nuisance law. Since then, the city has seen drastic results.
The abandoned car ordinance enables police officers to place a sticker on cars that have been abandoned for seven days. Once the sticker has been placed and the car stays on the side of the road for three days, the car is towed at the owner's expense.
According to council members, the grass and weed ordinance was tightened awhile back. The problem is trying to tighten it even more. Clark asked the council members Monday evening to review the ordinance and work on ways to tighten the law.