A Case Where Greener Isn't Necessarily Better

Watchdog

July 05, 2009|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,liz.kay@baltsun.com

THE PROBLEM: : Overgrown bushes and weeds block pedestrians' path on a sidewalk in Northeast Baltimore.

THE BACK STORY: : The grass is green and lush on Sinclair Lane. Unfortunately, so are the weeds and shrubs.

Lottie Sweat walks north on Sinclair Lane, in neighborhood of Frankford, to get to the post office at least once a week. But for months, weeds and other greenery growing taller and wider have encroached on the sidewalk along a short stretch between Parkside Drive and Bowleys Lane, requiring pedestrians to detour into the roadway.

Sweat said she first called 311 about the problem in December.

"It's even worse now," she said early last week. "You have to step out and put your head out to see before you step out into the street."

Sweat said the other side of Sinclair Lane is clear, but as a senior citizen, she avoids crossing the busy street. So, she sent pictures of the problem to Watchdog.

Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation, said Thursday that city workers had cleared the offending shrubbery. Ordinarily, this would be the adjacent property owner's responsibility, Barnes said. However, in this situation, transportation staff responded "because it was obstructing pedestrian movement," she said.

Homeowners are responsible for maintaining the exterior premises of their property, ensuring that all gutters, sidewalks and alleys are in safe condition, said Tania Baker, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Housing and Community Development.

The housing code enforcement handbook, available on the department's Web site, lists examples such as pruning or removing trees or shrubs that create a traffic hazard and keeping grass and weeds under 8 inches - a common concern of Watchdog readers.

If city residents call 311 about tall grass, a housing inspector will check the problem, Baker said. Property owners are issued citations for violations. The owner must correct the problem or a second citation will be sent by certified mail.

If the property owner still doesn't respond or fix the problem, Department of Public Works staff may be sent to cut the grass and the property owner will be billed for the service. The owner might also be prosecuted by the housing agency's legal arm.

No citations or violations had been sent to the Sinclair Lane property, Baker said.

WHO CAN FIX THIS: : Michael Braverman, deputy commissioner of code enforcement, 443-984-1806. City residents should call 311 or go online at baltimore.customerservicerequest.org to report problems.

Need help?

Is there something in your neighborhood that's not getting fixed? Tell us where the problem is and how long it's been there by e-mailing watchdog@baltsun.com or calling 410-332-6735.

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