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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Property owners in Colfax whose lawn, grass or weeds are taller than six inches will now have 48 hours to mitigate what the ordinance establishes as a public nuisance.
The previous ordinance set the height of the grass at eight inches before property owners were given five days to cut their grass, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, at the Colfax Village Board’s June 13 meeting.
When the grass is already eight inches tall, the grass could be another six inches taller in five days, she said.
Niggemann suggested changing the time period in the ordinance to 48 hours.
Several village board members suggested that eight inches was too high and that the length should be reduced to six inches to trigger the 48-hour warning.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved changing the ordinance to six inches in height for a lawn, grass or weeds and 48 hours to abate the nuisance.
Voting in favor of the motion were Village President Jody Albricht, and Village Trustees Margaret Burcham, Carey Davis, Anne Jenson, Jeff Prince and Jen Rud.
Village Trustee Gary Stene was absent from the meeting.
The ordinance will not go into effect until after it has been published in the Colfax Messenger.
According to the ordinance, lawns, grasses and noxious weeds on non-agricultural lots in the village that exceed six inches in length adversely affect “the public health and safety of the public in that they tend to emit pollen and other discomforting bits of plants, constitute a fire hazard and a safety hazard in that debris can be hidden in the grass, interferes with the public convenience and adversely affects property values of other land within the village.”
The ordinance declares lawn, grass or weeds taller than six inches to be a public nuisance, “except for property located in a designated flood plain area and/or wetland area or where the lawn, grass or weeds is part of a natural lawn approved pursuant to Section 8-1-5.”
If the Weed Commissioner or other authorized village official determines the lawn, grass or weeds is a public nuisance, a 48-hour written notice will be served to the occupant or owner of the property by mail or personal service, according to the ordinance.
If the lawn, grass or weeds are not cut after 48 hours, then the village will arrange for the the lawn, grass or weeds to be cut.
The cost of cutting the lawn, grass or weeds, plus the cost of invoicing and other administrative expenses, will be invoiced and mailed to the owner of the premises.
If the invoice is not paid within 60 days, then the amount will be put on the property taxes for the property in question.
Any occupant or property owner who receives a written notice about long grass can request a hearing before the Board of Appeals, according to the ordinance.
The request for a hearing must be submitted to the village clerk’s office within 48 hours of the date on the notice.
The ordinance requires the Board of Appeals to hold a hearing within seven days from the date of property owner or occupant’s request.
The village cannot mow the property until the hearing is held.
The owner or occupant can appear at the hearing in person or by attorney and may subpoena, present and cross-examine witnesses, according to the ordinance.
When the hearing has been closed, the Board of Appeals will make a determination in writing specifying the findings of fact and conclusions.
If the Board of Appeals determines the public nuisance exists, then the Board of Appeals will order the village to cut the lawn, grass or weeds unless the property owner has cut the grass with 48 hours of the Board of Appeals’ decision.
If the property owner does not cut the lawn, grass or weeds within 48 hours, then the village will abate the public nuisance, according to the ordinance.
It should be noted that the village board’s list of committee assignments includes a Zoning Board of Appeals but does not include a Board of Appeals.
According to the ordinance, any person, firm or corporation that does not abate the public nuisance within the required time period is subject to the penalties included in Section 1-1-6 of the village’s ordinances.
Under Section 1-1-6, the penalty for conviction on a first offense is a fine of not less than $25 and not more than $1,000, along with the cost of prosecution.
If the fine and the cost of prosecution are not paid, then the person will be imprisoned in the county jail until the fine and prosecution costs are paid, but for a time not exceeding 90 days.
For a conviction on a second offense, the fine is not less than $50 and not more than $1,000, along with the cost of prosecution.
If the fine and the cost of prosecution are not paid, then the person will be imprisoned in the county jail until the fine and cost of prosecution are paid but for a time not exceeding six months.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved a training request for EMT1 and EMT2 classes through Chippewa Valley Technical College reimbursed by the state for Kendra Pickett.
• Approved a training request for EMT1 and EMT2 classes through Chippewa Valley Technical College reimbursed by the state for Lauren LaBeree.
• Approved a temporary Class “B” / “Class B” retailer’s license for June 15 to June 19 for the Russell Toycen American Legion Post 131 for the Colfax Free Fair.
• Approved a pay request for Skid Steer Guy LLC in the amount of $82,523.51 for work completed on Dunn Street.
• Approved transferring Lot 3 in the East View housing development to Homes by Croix Creek.
• Approved designating $500 donated by John Fraley of Homes by Croix Creek for the Colfax Public Library’s summer reading program.
• Approved updates for the village’s emergency management plan. The changes included updates to telephone numbers and contact people. The plan also includes the fees charged by the Colfax Rescue Squad and the hourly rates of village employees and equipment. The fee costs included in the plan would be used help to determine the cost of a disaster, Niggemann said.