Wyoming lawn dispute goes to appeal

Alice Pickering
Wyoming Reporter

A complaint made to Wyoming City Council in September by Diane and John Eaton about a neighbor’s overgrown lawn was settled at a Board of Appeals public hearing Oct. 23.  Board members are Judy Coughlin, Roger Elmore, Mark Lobermeier, Maureen Wolhaupter and Steve Zerwas. Fred Weck, Zoning Administrator, and an alternate member, Lisa Iverson, also attended.  Most had visited the site.

The Eatons’ complaint was that the yard had once been turf, then used as a dirt bike/ATV track. When no longer used as a track, the turf was no longer mowed, but came back as long grass and weeds. They had found a rat in a pond and another trying to get into their house. A concern was the diseases these might carry. They presented pictures of the overgrown lawn.

They asked that the city enforce the ordinance about long grass. Weck said the prohibition about natural grass going back to original state was not a requirement until 2010; before that it referred to weeds.

Other neighbors have larger lots, with portions that are not mowed. Part of the decision was based on the lot size; about 1.2 acres. The ordinance has exception to areas that are an acre or larger.

In the written record of the meeting, there is also exception for “landscaped and natural areas.” Weck indicated that the owners had stopped mowing before the turf requirement was included in the ordinance and he determined that the area was a natural one; not requiring mowing.

Among findings of fact for the hearing, the 2010 amendment regarding lawn maintenance says that “once an area has been converted to turf grass the property owner shall not allow the turf grass to exceed the height of seven inches” or be allowed to go to seed.

Another part allows “Landscaped and natural areas, as approved by the Zoning Administrator, which involve wildflowers.”

Based on these parts of the ordinance, the yard is in compliance with the city ordinance.

Among the conclusions of the appeal hearing was the fact that the grass has been growing since 1998 and “can no longer be considered turf.” There are also more natural areas in yards and as buffers near lakes and ponds.

The Eatons were more concerned about how the hearing was conducted than the outcome. The Board of Appeals heard part of their claims, but they believed they did not listen to them completely. The other party’s defense was primarily in the form of character witnesses. The meeting had seemed biased to them; with some members advocates of natural areas.

A later visit from Mayor Eric Peterson helped resolve some of the bad feelings. Peterson told the Eatons he had tried to choose members who were not involved in elections. He did not know about the position of one member about natural areas.

Still, the Eatons felt that some of their questions were cut off; they were not allowed to finish sentences. Many speaking in support of the land owner were from out of the area.