It’s the time of the year when unattended yards can quickly turn unkempt: weeds popping up everywhere, grass up to your elbows, once-innocuous bushes looking like Rasputin’s beard.

If that sounds like your neighbor’s yard, you’re not alone. In a letter to the Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin and City Council members, Development Services Director Rusty Roth said the city’s code enforcement reports complaints increase substantially in the spring and summer.

But some citizens complain that the code enforcing yard upkeep is too vague, and Roth said the city solicitor and attorney have agreed more specific language would allow code enforcement to better crack down on libertine lawn owners. The City Council discussed the plan Wednesday at its work session and is scheduled to vote July 10.

In a nutshell, property owners still must keep all vegetation on their land trimmed; keep all rubbish including plant trimmings off the land and keep undergrowth like grass, kudzu, briars and weeds under 12 inches.

The changes primarily clarify previously unclear language, removing subjective phrases such as “obnoxious vegetation.”

The proposed new code also increases fines for habitual shrubbery shirkers.

A first or second offense would still come with a penalty of $50, and a third through fifth offense would set you back $100. But under the proposed changes, offense No. 6 will cost you $200, up from $100, No. 7 goes up to $300 from $250, eight goes from $250 to $400 and nine offenses will see you slapped with a $500 fee, up from $250.

The consequences for the most hardcore vegetation recidivists will remain the same. They can expect to throw down $1,000 for their tenth offense and each one after that.

Councilman Joseph Goldstein proposed adding more specific language describing the heights of certain types of plants.

“For shrubs and bushes, those don’t really have a definition,” he said. “Would that be better to include the overgrown trees, shrubs and bushes as part of that?”

Goldstein also asked to add specific languages regarding the heights of trees that hang over the right of way, but Councilwomen Michelle Cooper Kelly and Cheryl Richardson said they like the code changes as suggested by staff.

“I think you’re locking yourself into — if you specify a limit, each situation would be different, right? … It looks like they covered the full gamut,” Kelly said. “I’m comfortable with what the language is.”

“I think that if we get too specific, you run the risk of missing something, so then you tell people if we didn’t say it, then it’s okay … I think that we’ve got to make it reasonable without having to speak to every single condition possible,” Richardson said.

The council ended up voting 5-1 to move the changes to Wednesday’s meeting as-is, where the council is expected to take a final vote after a public hearing. Goldstein was the sole no vote, and Councilman Reggie Copeland was not present at the meeting.

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