Mayor Jon Mitchell is looking to get tough on New Bedford property owners who do not keep their lawns trim and neat. Mitchell has proposed an ordinance that would give an existing law some teeth and a bit more of a punitive bite.

Current law allows the city to hand out fines of $300 to property owners who allow their lawns to resemble something from The Addams Family 2, but the law has seldom been enforced. We've all seen them. Some folks even have them for neighbors.

You might argue that you should be able to allow the grass to grow as high as an elephant's eye if you want on your own private property. The city would counter, and I would agree, that uncontrolled vegetation can create health and safety problems for the neighbors. Rodents such as mice and rats often set up shop in tall grass. Tall grass can also be a magnet for every piece of garbage that sails on the breeze. Besides, it's an eyesore.

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Mitchell's proposed ordinance, I suspect, is aimed mainly at those rogue absentee landlords who also fail to shovel their sidewalks when it snows or clean up litter in front of their property. No neighborhood should have to tolerate an unfettered jungle.

Mitchell is proposing that for a first offense, there is just a warning, no fine. A second offense would warrant a $25 fine, and a third and fourth offense a $75 fine. The eighth through 10th offense would be a $100 fine, followed by a $150 fine for the 11th-14th offense, a $200 fine for the 15th-20th offense, a $250 fine for the 21st-24th offense, and a $300 fine for the 25th and any further offense.

Read it here: Mayor Mitchell's Proposed Ordinance

I believe the fines would be per day until the property owner complies. Keep in mind, this is the guy who threatened to send cops into churches last year, so he means business.

The intent of the proposal is good, but with lax enforcement of the city's litter ordinance, it comes across as a little heavy-handed. The administration should consider combining this proposal with a more targeted and tough approach to combatting the litter problem, which is way out of hand.

I wonder, is out-of-control grass that serious of an issue right now to warrant this proposed ordinance, or is this just a money grab, as some callers to my show have suggested? What do you think?

The New Bedford City Council could take up the matter as soon as next week.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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