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Lennox City Council looking to trim penalty for grass clipping ordinance

The war on stray grass clippings continues in Lennox as the city council discussed how to enforce an ordinance that was passed earlier this year to keep the little green menaces off of the streets.

Since August 2, Ordinance 586 - Chapter 3.0102(k) was in effect. The ordinance reads as follows, “Depositing, accumulating, or permitting to be accumulated on any street, alley, or public ground any grass clippings, leaves, or other yard waste produced in conjunction with yard maintenance or gardening. The owner, tenant, or person in charge of any lot within the City is responsible for ensuring that any persons hired to cut their grass or maintain their yard abide by this ordinance.”

Despite numerous attempts by city staff to educate the public about this ordinance through venues such as sending information in utility bills, through Facebook posts, information on the City Website, and publication in the newspaper, city staff are receiving complaints that the City is not enforcing the ordinance, according to City Administrator Amanda Anglin.

To help curb this, the City Council was asked to give guidance to the City Staff on how to enforce this ordinance. However, the ordinance has an unusually high penalty attached to it because of the way it is written. Unlike similar ordinances for simple things like parking on the streets during snowstorms, which have their own small fees and penalties connected to them, the penalties for this grass clippings ordinance just falls under the umbrella of a general ordinance violation.

According to Anglin, “It’s how it’s drafted, and certain ordinances have certain fees attached to them and this one does not. It just goes with the general ordinance violation.”

These penalties, which are in what is called the Lennox Municipal Ordinance, were presented to the council and were discussed as being too harsh. The Public Nuisance Penalty and Remedy section, which is what this grass clipping ordinance follows by default, treats the penalty for failing to remedy a public nuisance as follows, “Any person who creates, commits, maintains or fails to abate a public nuisance as required under the provisions of this Chapter may be charged with a Class 2 Misdemeanor. A separate offense shall be deemed committed on each day during or on which a violation occurs or continues. In addition, the City may also use the remedies of civil action and abatement as set forth in SDCL 21-10-5 through 21-10-9. Any person given notice of an abatement shall be charged an administrative fee as set by resolution by the Lennox City Council. “

This caused concern among the council because a class 2 misdemeanor can result in a 30 day stay in a county jail and/or a $500 fine. In order to determine a more appropriate penalty for the minor nuisance of putting grass clippings in the street, Anglin stated that the council will need to update the ordinance. The Council will be discussing this issue at the next meeting.

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