Friday, May 21–County Speeds Up Process For Nuisance Issues

SNOW HILL – A measure to
allow Worcester County staff to streamline and speed up a nuisance process for
overgrown properties only received support from five of seven Worcester County Commissioners
this week.

The commissioners rarely
encounter a split vote on decisions, preferring to work out a compromise all
can agree with, but this was one instance when an agreement was not possible.

Tall grass and overgrown
vegetation was already a nuisance under county law when staff came to the
commissioners earlier this spring asking to establish a new procedure that
would allow them to handle overgrown yards more expeditiously.

The previous process was
cumbersome and could take months to resolve with requirements that the
commissioners sign off on staff actions and that numerous efforts to force
landowners to clean up the property must be made, Development Review and
Permitting Director Ed Tudor told the commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting.

The new process will
take weeks off the tall grass and overgrowth nuisance abatement procedures,
Tudor said.

Worcester County,
however, is as guilty of not cutting grass and allowing overgrowth as any
neglectful resident is, Commissioner Bobby Cowger said, since the county is not
cutting road verges on back roads.

How can the county
enforce a nuisance law on citizens when it does not follow its own rules,
Cowger asked.

“I think it’s a double
standard and it’s hypocritical,” said Cowger.

Commission President Bud
Church disagreed, saying Cowger is not comparing apples to apples.

Church said he has seen
abandoned, foreclosed homes with four-foot tall grass covering the windows,
where rats and mice have moved in and neighbors are dumping trash. That is the
kind of nuisance the law is meant to address, according to Church.

Regardless of its
intention, Cowger said the county should address its own issues.

“We need to set an
example,” Cowger said.

County grass cutting is
a separate issue and should be discussed at another time, Commissioner Linda
Busick said.

Church recalled a tall
grass nuisance case that took months to resolve because the county could not
find the owner to send a notification.

Five commissioners voted
for and Cowger and Commissioner Virgil Shockley voted against the tall grass
nuisance process change.

“The legislation isn’t
any different than what we have except it halves the time,” said Church.