Green ghetto legislation

September 11, 1990

With the average price of a new home in Howard County hovering around $175,000, one would think the last worry around area neighborhoods would be people who don't care for their property. But even in the heart of suburbia, it seems, some people have the audacity to let their grass grow -- or worse, to plant meadow mix and wildflowers and let the yard go au natural.

Councilwoman Angela Beltram has had enough of it. Beltram recently introduced a lawn mowing bill that would put an end to people's letting the grass grow under their feet. Under the provisions of the bill, violators would be reported to the Public Works Department, which would give the offending property owner 10 days to get off the sofa and pull the starter cord. After 15 days, the county would mow the lawn itself and bill the property owner. Failure to pay the grass-cutting fee would result in a lien on the owner's property. (That darn well ought to teach 'em to use the Lawn Boys in Howard County.)

There are many things wrong with this bill, not the least of which is that the government has no more claim to mow people's lawns than it does to paint peeling shingles. It is the role of neighborhood associations, or better yet -- neighbors -- to persuade people to keep their homes up. More than that, the bill codifies conformity: If you choose to live in a community where everyone has neatly mowed lawns, then the government has decided that you will have one, too. The only place to go from there is to mandate Laura Ashley wallpaper.

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