Liens, foreclosures possible on overgrown properties in county

Mary E. Hinds News Herald

Monday, the county commission discussed a resolution from the planning commission recommending the county request to be excluded from the limitation on regulating overgrown vegetation on owner-occupied lots. 

This translates into the county being able to put a lien on any property that is considered overgrown after the property owners have been warned to clear up excessive vegetation and, if the lien is not paid, the county could foreclose on that property. County Planner Russ Newman said the only authority the county currently has is to send a letter requesting the property be cleared but no way to enforce those requests.

Commissioner Austin Shaver said he was strongly opposed to the notion that the county get into the business of putting liens on people's property and foreclose on it because a neighbor doesn't like the length of a homeowners grass. He told his fellow commissioners he found the entire notion "abhorrent" and added the county "can't be involved in this sort of thing."

He said such rules are already in place in the cities and some county residents choose to live outside city limits to avoid these types of regulations.  He said county government has no place acting like a bank and possibly foreclosing on people's property. 

Commissioner Don Miller said it is a fine line between people doing what they want on their own property and them doing things that lower the property value of their neighbor's homes. 

Commission Chairman Roy Bledsoe said any situation depends on the proximity of neighbors and how much an overgrown property is effecting them. "I would have a problem" with the idea of putting liens on people's property, said Commissioner Earlena Maples. She said, these days, an overgrown yard could reflect a loss of a job and money and might be beyond the control of the homeowner. "Every family is going through different things," she said. 

Newman said while the county can request a property be cleaned up there is no leverage to enforce it currently.

Commissioner Bob Franke said he was leery of that kind of government authority and he was not crazy about it going any farther.  The proposal will be on the agenda at the March County Commission Meeting.