Augusta searches for solutions to overgrown lots

AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Edward Madison has a community garden growing in his neighborhood. He says though that he sees too many vacant lots overgrown and grass and weeds, even in winter.

“It’s going to be an eye sore anyway lot of lots in this location you can’t find the individual who owns it,” said Madison.

‘So they don’t get cut.’

“They don’t get cut,” he said.

But over the last five years, the city has been stepping in to cut lots when the owners can’t or don’t and there are a lot of these lots.

“Three thousand. We cut in the neighborhood of three thousand lots every single year,” said Loi Videtto, the Landfill Director.

When the city cuts the lot, the owner’s cost is $70 a hour, but at that price some owners just let the city do it.

“Because they’ll tell us that on the phone, yeah I’m out of town I don’t have resources to do that or I don’t know anybody, I inherited the property you go ahead and cut it and just charge me,” says Videtto.

That’s why Videtto wants to deter property owners by increasing the fees to $300.

“The process right now is very burdensome, it really relies on the city to do the work we need to change that.” says Videtto.

But some commissioners don’t see raising the cutting fees as the best way to make that change

“If you raise the fees from what they are now, if they’re not paying what they’re paying, raising fees are not going to do anything. Something else has gotten happen,” says Commissioner Marion Williams.

When tax bills are not paid, the city can seize the property but the city gets another vacant lot that has to cut.

So instead of increasing the cutting fees, commissioners are voting to have the Landfill, the Marshal’s Office and Code Enforcement and the administrator sit down to develop a new policy to deal with overgrown lots within the next 45 days. Just in time for grass season.

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