St. Catharines properties with overgrown grass and weeds face new penalties

St. Catharines is introducing a new fine system for property owners who let grass and weeds get too long that’s meant to cut down on repeat offenders and get quicker action.

The new penalty process and bylaw, unanimously adopted by council Monday, will allow bylaw officers to issue fines from $ 250- $ 750 for grass and weed violations that get added to property taxes if the owner doesn’t pay up.

Those fines can be slapped on a property every day that an owner lets the grass grow under their feet.

“These administrative penalties provide additional leverage for our bylaw officers to obtain compliance, especially with problematic properties and frequent fliers,” said Paul Chudoba, manager of law enforcement and licensing.

He said the administrative monetary penalty system is primarily intended to address repeat offenders who let grass and weeds exceed 20 cm.

The idea is to generate voluntary compliance because the cost of not following the rules will start to add up.

The first penalty is $ 250, the second is $ 500 and from then on it’s $ 750 for the third or more.

The penalties adopted Monday will also be applied to the city’s waste bylaw.

“I think it’s a big step forward,” said St. Andrew’s Coun. Joe Kushner, who moved the staff recommendation.

“We’re sending a message to the landowners who are not taking care of their property that yes, we want to be educational but at the same time if that fails we have to be punitive. I think this does both. ”

Chudoba told council Monday that the new fine system is another step towards the modernization and enhancement of how bylaw enforcement is conducted in the city.

The administrative monetary penalty system was introduced for the first time for a short-term rental licensing by-law that went into effect in January for property owners advertised on Airbnb, Vrbo and other sites.

It allows the city to set penalties for offenses and tickets issues, avoiding a lengthy and expensive court process to collect revenue.

Council also embraced the system as part of a new boulevard bylaw in April that regulates what can be planted on city property at the end of front lawns.

Chudoba said there’s been an escalation in complaints received for grasses, weeds and waste.

The city receives an average of 634 long grass and weeds complaints and 740 waste complaints every year, for a total of 1,374 annually.

Based on a 95 percent compliance rate, the city expects to issue about 69 penalty notices a year, not including for repeat offenders, that would bring in $ 17,250 in monetary penalties annually for non-compliance.

The city is hoping the new system will also deter some property owners who would rather have the city clean up their property and be billed than hire a maintenance company for more money to do the work for a season.

Chudoba said the city can escalate the level of monetary penalty significantly for problematic properties so it would no longer be a benefit to the owner to have the city be its “landscape service.”

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