Kenner — Kenner scofflaws who refuse to properly maintain their properties will soon face stiffer penalties now that the Kenner City Council has tweaked several of the city’s code enforcement guidelines.
City code inspectors will be cracking down on high grass and improperly manicured lawns in the upcoming weeks, as well as those businesses that try to gain a leg up on the competition by encroaching on city sidewalks. In addition, the city is targeting large commercial vehicles parked on city streets.
The changes are the result of recommendations from the city’s Code Advisory Committee, a group of residents who have been reviewing Kenner code enforcement statutes with an eye toward making improvements. The group recently recommended changes to how the city handles abandoned homes, which resulted in the creation of a database of information that city officials still are perfecting.
Tamithia Shaw, director of code enforcement, said the group focused on issues related to grass-cutting and vehicles because those two things have been the source of many resident complaints. Not only is the city requiring property owners to edge their lawns when they cut them, but the notification process for violations has changed.
Instead of contacting violators by certified mail, which costs $5.75 a notice, the city will post notices in the newspaper and use regular mail, Shaw said. Not only will this save the city money, but it will mean that if grass isn’t cut properly within a week, the city will do the work and place a lien on the property, she said.
“We want people to know you have to maintain your property,” Shaw said. “We receive a lot of complaints because people do haphazardly cut their grass to be in compliance.”
Council members praised the new guidelines, noting they, too, receive numerous complaints about high grass, weeds and trash at vacant lots or blighted property.
Councilman Joe Stagni said the previous guidelines allowed some people to game the system by waiting until the last minute to cut their grass and then doing a poor job. He said he’s even seen instances where property owners haven’t edged their property in so long that the lawn has taken over the sidewalk. The new rules should help solve that problem.
“This is excellent because it closes down a loophole,” Stagni said. “It’s the same people over and over again.”
Shaw said the size restriction on commercial vehicles is designed to cut down on a safety hazard while still allowing those residents who have larger vehicles to park in front of their homes.
Oversized vehicles make it harder for residents to see as they pull out of driveways or come to intersections. The rules would remove box trucks and other commercial vehicles from the street but allow larger SUVs or vans equipped with wheelchair lifts to remain.
Councilman Kent Denapolis expressed concerns that the size limit was still too high, but Shaw said that in recent years, even noncommercial vehicles have grown much larger.
Shaw added that the rule about business displays is aimed at improving the aesthetics along Kenner’s main commercial corridors.
Too often, business will set up their wares as close to the street as possible, which can become unsightly.
The new rules will only allow exterior displays close to buildings.
“We want to make sure all our corridors in Kenner are kept as immaculate as possible,” Shaw said.
Council Chairwoman Michele Branigan said she’s been pleased with the ideas that have come out of the committee so far and is interested to see what other changes are recommended.
Councilwoman Jeannie Black agreed, noting that since the committee is composed of regular residents, they have a different perspective on what the city needs than public officials.
“Sometimes you have to experience firsthand and this committee was made up of private citizens in Kenner,” Black said.