SAN BENITO — Tall saggy grass is rising across some lawns, many fronting vacant houses and empty lots.
So, now the city’s getting tough.
This week, 306 notices were mailed out warning property owners to cut overgrown grass that has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“I wouldn’t say it’s usual for a city our size,” Bernard Rodriguez, the city’s planning director who oversees the code enforcement department, said yesterday about the number of notices mailed out.
Now, property owners have seven days to comply with an ordinance requiring them to cut grass taller than 12 inches high or face fines as high as $400 a day.
The city is trying to control the spread of mosquitoes after weeks of steady rains have spurred grass to grow high across many lots in town.
“For the health and safety of the community in San Benito, we are tackling the problem by notifying those property owners who may not be in compliance with our ordinances to take care of their yards and lots,” Rodriguez said.
In Harlingen, the city routinely mails out notices requesting property owners to comply with an ordinance requiring them to cut high grass, city spokeswoman Irma Garza said yesterday.
In San Benito, most property owners have gotten the message.
Yesterday, Raymundo Cantu pulled out his lawnmower to trim his yard after this week’s rains spurred grass to grow.
“So far, people have been complying,” Rodriguez said. “We have received a positive response.”
As part of the crackdown, crews drive around town searching for overgrown lots.
“We go out with the intent of finding those areas that need to be addressed,” Rodriguez said. “We take a photo and document it.”
The city is willing to work with property owners who might need more time to cut high grass.
“If they need more days and more time to address the issue, sure we’re going to work with them on that,” Rodriguez said.
But in some cases, he said, property owners can be hard to track down.
“The biggest problem there is is absentee landowners,” Rodriguez said.
The city can get tough.
Options include sending city crews to mow lots — and even levying liens against property.
“If we have to go in and abate the nuisance, we can assess a fee and levy a lien,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the city charges $250 to mow an overgrown lot.
Across town, crews will be searching for weedy lots.
“It’s going to be a continuing program as needed,” Rodriguez said.
For more information, property owners can contact the city's code compliance office at 956-361-3804, extension 403.