(A)   Definitions.
      DEBRIS. Includes the remains of something broken-down or destroyed.
      PROPERTY. Includes that real property subject to an easement or right of way of or upon which an owner maintains ownership and use of the property, even if the same is subject to the rights of use of others. However, the term PROPERTY shall not include real property subject to a right of way which prohibits, or by its nature defeats, the use of the property by the owner.
      RANK VEGETATION. Includes those weeds and growing vegetation which is excessively vigorous in growth, shockingly conspicuous, malodorous and/or flagrant.
      TALL GRASS. Includes any grass or weeds obtaining the height of eight inches or more on tracts of real estate of 15 acres or less.
      WEEDS. Includes thistles, burdock, jimson weed, ragweed, milkweed, poison ivy, poison oak, ironweed, and all other noxious vegetation that is not valued where it is growing, and is of rank growth, tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants and/or is listed as a weed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture publication entitled “Common Weeds of the United States”, or in any similar government publication.
   (B)   Violation. It is a violation of this section to have weeds, rank vegetation, debris and/or tall-grass on any real property located within the city’s corporate limits.
   (C)   Requirement to cut. All owners of real property located within the city shall cut and remove weeds and other rank vegetation growing thereon that exceeds a height of eight inches, shall keep their grass at a height less than eight inches and shall keep their real property clear of debris.
   (D)   Exception. If, in the discretion of the city or its designee, it is found that the tall grass is:
      (1)   Located within a natural or developed forest which does not create an unusual threat to health or safety for adjacent landowners,
      (2)   Is located within vacant, open, or undeveloped lands or fields which are located more than 150 feet from occupied property, or
      (3)   Is located on occupied land which abuts vacant, open or undeveloped property, or natural or developed forest land and which is located more than 75 feet from an occupied structure within a residential zoning district and which is not located within a front yard or side yard directly abutting a public street, no violation shall be deemed to have occurred.
   (E)   Notice of violation.
      (1)   In the event of a violation herein, the Board of Public Works and Safety shall notify the owner of the real estate that the Board has determined a violation exists on the owner’s real estate. Notice shall be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested or an equivalent service permitted under I.C. l-l-7-l(b). Such notice must also provide that the owner must take steps to abate the nuisance within ten days from receipt of the notice, and that, if the owner fails to do so, the Board of Public Works and Safety shall itself abate the nuisance upon the expiration of the time period specified in the notice. Further, in such an event, the notice must provide that a lien will be filed against the owner’s property for costs involved in abatement of the nuisance.
      (2)   Notice may be served upon (a) the owner of record of the subject real property with a single owner; or (b) at least one of the owners of the subject real property with multiple owners, at the last address of the owner for the property as indicated in the records of the Whitley County Auditor on the date of the notice. The Board may also direct that a sign be placed prominently on the real estate, which sign shall give notice of the existence of the violation on the real estate and request that the owner, or anyone having knowledge of the whereabouts of the owner, to contact the Board of Public Works and Safety.
      (3)   The city also has the authority to post a notice of continuous abatement on an owner’s real estate as opposed to continuously serving an owner with an abatement notice. In such an event, the initial notice must include a statement saying that if there are further violations of the tall grass or weed provisions throughout the year and the city mows the weeds or tall grass on the owner’s behalf, the city will post a notice of continuous abatement on the real estate and will not be required to serve via certified mail or other accepted form of service. The city will charge the costs of the nuisance abatement to the owner and collect those costs, including the authority to file a lien against the property to ensure payment.
   (F)   Penalty. Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be subject to a fine of (1) $50 for the first violation; (2) $75 for the second violation; and (3) $ 100 for a third or subsequent violation. The application of the foregoing progressive penalties shall be for violations within the same calendar year.
   (G)   Appeals. An owner who receives notice of a nuisance violation shall have the right to appeal a bill issued and/or the abatement thereof or the nuisance determination to the Board of Public Works and Safety or, pursuant to I.C. 33-36, to the court having jurisdiction in the area of the violation. Such appeal must be provided in writing to the City Clerk-Treasurer within seven days of receipt of the notice of abatement or violation or, in the event a civil claim has been initiated, in a court having jurisdiction in the area of the violation, pursuant to the rules of the trial court or applicable Indiana state laws.
   (H)   Failure to pay. If the landowner fails to timely pay an invoice issued pursuant to this section, the Clerk-Treasurer, or its designee, shall certify to the County Auditor the amount of the invoice, plus any additional administrative costs incurred in the certification of the same. The Auditor shall place the total amount so certified on the tax duplicate for the property at issue, and the total amount, including any accrued interest, shall be collected as delinquent taxes are collected and shall be disbursed to the general fund of the city. If the owner fails to pay said sum assessed for the removal and/or cutting of the debris, weeds, or rank vegetation within the time prescribed, the Clerk-Treasurer shall file a certified copy of the statement of costs in the Auditor’s office of Whitley County, and the Auditor shall place the amount so claimed on the tax duplicate against the lands of the landowner affected by the lien, and the same shall be collected as taxes disbursed to the general fund of the city.
   (I)   This section supplements and does not limit any other remedy or action available in law or in equity regarding the subject matter hereof.
   (J)   This section shall not apply to agricultural operations ongoing on November 22, 2016, nor to agricultural operations otherwise exempted by state law or other provisions of the city’s Code of Ordinances.
(Ord. 2014-26, passed 12-9-2014; Am. Ord. 2015-6, passed 2-24-2015; Am. Ord. 2016-19, passed 11-22-2016)
Statutory reference:
   Removal of weeds and rank vegetation, I.C. 36-7-10.1-3et seq.