BAKER — The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to streamline the process of punishing property owners who fail to keep “excessive grass, weeds and vegetation” on their land under control.
The law is part of a series of ordinances the city is developing to combat blight. In September, the council passed an ordinance that allows Baker to work with the Louisiana Municipal Association to handle some legal procedures dealing with blight as well as appoint a hearing officer to levy fines and handle appeals by property owners.
The ordinance adopted Tuesday does not change the grass height that is considered a nuisance, which remains at 12 inches.
“It’s a health and safety concern,” city attorney Ken Fabre said.
The ordinance applies to lots without buildings as well as developed properties. Back yards and land behind buildings are not exempt, he explained.
Offenders could be fined between $50 and $100 and imprisoned for up to 30 days.
Property owners will be notified by mail if they are in violation of the ordinance and have five days to cut the weeds before the city will take care of weed abatement and bill the owner. If the bill is not paid, the city will place a lien on the property.
The ordinance also allows the city to declare a property blighted or abandoned. After a process during which affected property owners have the opportunity to appear before a hearing officer, the city could seize and sell the property to recover the cost of weed abatement.
Baker’s anti-blight program is a pilot initiative that other cities already are seeking to emulate.
The city has received calls from officials in New Iberia, Ville Platte and Hammond with questions about the new laws, Fabre said.
Baker city officials and council members are developing the laws along with the Louisiana Municipal Association.
“A lot of work went into this,” Mayor Harold Rideau said.
The City Council will soon consider another law that will apply specifically to blighted buildings, Fabre said.
In other business, the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court will hold qualifying for the convenience of Baker candidates on Dec. 2 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Baker Council Chambers, 3325 Groom Road. The March 19 primary includes the offices of Baker mayor, police chief and City Council members as well as Louisiana State Central Committee Democrat and Republican members and East Baton Rouge Parish Executive Committee Democrat and Republican members, and the special election for East Baton Rouge Parish School Board’s District 4 representative.
Qualifying will also be held at the Clerk of Court’s Office Dec. 2-4. Information about qualifying can be obtained by calling (225) 295-4765.