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Town weeds through ordinances

September 14, 2010

LeAnn Munn describes where a stream
runs behind her grandfather's house in Maiden.

Summer is almost over, but Amanda Burke’s grandchildren haven’t spent much time outdoors.
Burke said mosquitoes, rats, snakes and other pests from an unmaintained lot beside her father’s house on 110 N. Fourth Ave. in Maiden prevent her family from going outside and enjoying the warm weather.
“If it would have been kept up, it wouldn’t have gotten this bad,” Burke said.
Burke’s grandchildren, ages 4, 2 and 6 months, come back inside with numerous mosquito bites every time they go outside.
The town of Maiden has nuisance ordinances in place to manage overgrown lots and junk on properties within the city limits. But in Burke’s case, the town’s hands are tied, said Town Manager Todd Herms.
“We don’t know if it’s technically against the town ordinance or not,” he said.
The town is working with the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources to determine if the spring running behind Burke’s father’s property and the overgrown grass, foliage and trees are considered wetlands protected by state and federal statutes.
“We’re in the process of trying to find out (if the land is protected),” Herms said. “We’re doing everything we can.”
The property owner also has obligations to meet, Herms said.
Tracts of land must have three qualifications to be considered a wetland: hydrology, or a water element; vegetation; and soils.
“If they meet all three of those, you have a wetland for sure,” said Alan Johnson, environmental specialist with the NCDENR water quality division.
Johnson said there are also other ways for a piece of land to be considered a wetland without all three elements present.
Johnson said the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for determining whether a property constitutes a wetland, and because he hasn’t visited the site in Maiden, he doesn’t know if the area qualifies as a wetland.
“If it’s a wetland, I’m not going to say clean it up, or tear it up, or fill it in, because we like wetlands,” Johnson said.
Burke started attending Maiden’s town council meetings in April in an effort to have the offending property cleaned up.
“I told them about the babies getting eaten (by mosquitoes),” she said. “I wanted to know what their intention was for getting rid of it.”
In Maiden’s August newsletter, the town printed a copy of its updated lot-mowing ordinance for vacant lots.
According to the ordinance, “Every owner or person in possession of a lot within the corporate limits shall mow or shrub down within four inches of the ground all weeds, grass or other noxious growth from such lot at least four times a year.”
Burke said this isn’t being done on the lot beside her father’s house. She said the yard was recently mowed and weed killer sprayed on the property about three weeks ago, but that isn’t enough to keep pests and other insects at bay.
“(Weed killer) did not clean it up,” she said.
Ultimately, Burke wants a safe, clean place for her family.
“I want it kept clean by the ordinance,” Burke said. “If they’re not going to enforce the ordinance, get rid of it.”

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