Alabaster may speed up weed trimming

Published 10:34 am Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Alabaster is asking the state Legislature to pass a bill changing the city’s process for addressing overgrown lots. (Contributed)

Alabaster is asking the state Legislature to pass a bill changing the city’s process for addressing overgrown lots. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Alabaster may follow the lead of cities such as Auburn, Opelika and Athens in speeding up its process to trim overgrown privately owned lots in the city, as the City Council agreed to turn to the Alabama Legislature for help during a Dec. 22 meeting.

The council voted unanimously during the meeting to request the state Legislature consider a local law specifically addressing weed abatement in Alabaster.

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, likely will sponsor the bill, city leaders said during a Dec. 17 work session.

If passed during the 2016 legislative session, the bill will change the city’s process behind addressing overgrown lots not maintained by property owners. The city currently follows state guidelines with its weed abatement ordinance.

“Auburn and Opelika in 2013, and then Athens after that, got local legislation that allows them to speed up the process of weed abatement,” said Alabaster City Attorney Jeff Brumlow.

Through the proposed ordinance, once the city’s building official identifies an overgrown lot in violation of the city’s ordinance, the city would then mail a notice to the property owner.

From then, the property owner would have 14 days to cut the weeds or 10 days to appeal the city’s findings.

If the property is not addressed within 14 days, city crews will have authorization to go on the property and cut the overgrown grass and weeds. The cost of cutting the grass would then be attached as a lien against the property, which is collectible by the county tax assessor.

Brumlow said, if passed, the bill would apply to all lots in the city.

“If we can get it on the legislative agenda and get the proper notices to run, (the Legislature) may take it up in the first few days of the session,” Brumlow said.

While introducing the matter during a Dec. 21 council meeting, Ward 1 Councilwoman Sophie Martin said the bill seeks to speed up the weed abatement process “while at the same time preserving the rights of citizens and due process.”

“A large portion of my ward is undeveloped lots, and I consistently get a lot of calls about lots being overgrown,” City Council President Scott Brakefield said. “I’m all in favor of this.”