LaGrange City Council could look at the way it regulates overgrown lots after hearing from a resident of Northpointe subdivision Tuesday.
Barbara McLeod says the tall grass growing on vacant, adjacent lots in her neighborhood is unhealthy and unsafe, and she has seen “rats as large as cats” scurrying about the properties.
“We’re not picnicking on these vacant lots and leaving things behind and inviting them in,” she said. “They are just there.” She suspects some of the rats may be carrying the hantavirus, which can be deadly to humans.
McLeod also had a problem when rats nested in the overgrowth near power lines and ate into her telephone line, leaving her without a telephone or home security system for four days while the utility companies sorted it out.
“That is not how I want to live,” she said.
Northpointe, near Hammett and Davis roads, is like many subdivisions in the area. It was partially developed five or six years ago with a few homes, but now several of the lots are in foreclosure and owned by banks. The lots were cleared in anticipation of building, but structures were never built there, which City Manager Tom Hall said leaves code enforcement in an awkward position.
The city can come and mow grass and overgrowth in rights-of-way, which would solve the problem with the rats’ easy access to the utility lines. However,
“Right now we don’t have a tool to tell a bank to say ‘come and mow your vacant lot,’” he said. The city’s ordinance that addresses tall grass addresses developed property, leaving the cleared lots with no homes in limbo as far as adhering to any particular rules.
For undeveloped lots that were never cleared, the city has a policy of letting the lots go back to their “natural state,” where some small trees eventually grow back. Hall calls that policy “easier for everyone.”
McLeod, however, would like to see some sort of rule enforced on the cleared, undeveloped lots. She said the Centers for Disease Control recommends a buffer of at least 100 feet of maintained yard around a house. She doesn’t want to see the city get saddled with the maintenance, however.
“I don’t think the city should be responsible,” she said. “If you own a lot, you should maintain a lot.”
McLeod said she spoke to a bank owner who came out to inspect the properties and was told they would be mowed every six weeks. They have been cut once in two years, she said.
Hall said the city staff would look at what it could do to change the ordinance.