Ascension targets overgrown lots in rural communities

The Ascension Parish Council will consider bringing the parish government’s residential yard maintenance standards in the coming weeks to small rural communities on the parish’s west bank.

Since the mid-1990s, Ascension Parish government has had rules on maintaining lawns for lots inside subdivisions in unincorporated parts of the parish. After proper warning, the parish can cut high grass, bill property owners and put a lien on their property.

The parish ordinance, however, does not apply to some of the parish’s older, rural west bank communities along the Mississippi River that developed in a largely compact, small-lot pattern, but not as formal subdivisions.

Councilman Oliver Joseph asked a council committee Monday to support a “grass and weed overlay zone” that would apply the rules to those communities, such as Aben, Lemannville, Modeste, Smoke Bend and others.

“They are not subdivisions. They are just old communities, and we know we do have an ordinance for subdivisions, but we’ve just been getting a lot of phone calls about overgrown lots and everything,” Joseph, who represents the west bank Council District 1, told the Council Strategic Planning Committee on Monday.

“And this is the only way I know how to solve that.”

The proposed ordinance, which the committee backed without opposition, would require lawns inside the new overlay area to be cut after grass reaches higher than 2 feet.

The overlay would be defined on a parish map by outlining areas on the west bank where the proposed rules would apply — essentially small communities and not the vast agricultural tracts surrounding them, nor the city of Donaldsonville.

Joseph said ordinance changes would allow residents to file complaints with parish government.

The proposed changes exempt agricultural fields or fields greater than 100 feet from a residence.

The original version of the proposed changes would have also required property owners with residences within 100 feet of another residence to cut their grass at least twice per year.

But Parish President Tommy Martinez pointed out that the language might allow property owners, when faced with a complaint, to claim they had cut their grass twice in a year and leave the parish little recourse.

Joseph agreed to remove the provision.

The ordinance is expected to be introduced at council meeting in Gonzales on July 18, with a public hearing and final vote at a subsequent meeting in August.

Councilman Kent Schexnaydre, committee chairman, noted that the map would allow more areas to be added to the overlay if other council members wished to add them.