Council targets ‘unsightly’ yard conditions
By LPR Staff
With longer, sunny days on the horizon, residents all over Lockhart are planning for their spring cleaning.
However, in many areas, cleaning up yards and outdoor storage is not the order of the day. For that reason, the Lockhart City Council has chosen to ask the city attorney to pursue an update o
f city codes dictating outdoor storage and collection within the city limits.
According to City Manager Vance Rodgers, the City has received no fewer than seven complaints in the last week about “unsightly” conditions on residential properties throughout the community. Those conditions, according to Rodgers, include complaints about neighbors storing any manner and degree of boxes, furniture and other material on their porches or in their yards where it is visible from the public right-of-way or from neighboring properties. Presently, the City has no means to deal with those complaints outside the sanitation ordinance, and can only order cleanups if the “eyesores” cause health or sanitation issues.
“We’ve always stopped at the curb,” Mayor Lew White said. “So we’re going to need to be prepared for it in every District, because when we get into storage and how people are keeping their houses, we’re going to hear about that.”
Councilmember Brad Westmoreland acknowledged that in many cases, the condition of local residents’ yards are not a reflection of hoarding behavior or lack of care, but rather the lack of manpower and resources to take care of their yards. To that end, he requested the City work with local volunteer groups to identify and assist with those situations, instead of immediately imposing fines on property owners.
“We don’t want to spy on people, but we want [the community] to be as good as it can be,” he said. “So I think it’s important to make sure that if people need help, we’re finding a way to help them.”
Rodgers reminded the council that the conversation comes only days in advance of the annual Citywide Cleanup slated for April. After the cleanup is complete, he said, it will be easier to identify the properties where the homeowners need help, versus where the homeowners are using their properties for storage.
“If we offer them assistance and they decide not to take it, or they want to be hard-headed, then we have to have the next steps available,” he said. “At this point, there’s nothing in the ordinance that really allows us to do that.”
City Attorney Peter Gruning said in most cases, the troubles are sorted out before they reach municipal court, but that when cases reach municipal court, people often respond after they start having to pay fines for eyesore properties.
Because the measure was set for discussion only, the council did not impose rules on Tuesday evening. They did, however, instruct Gruning to investigate an ordinance further, and are expected to act on a new ordinance later this spring.
“I think it’s a matter of awareness,” Councilmember Jeffry Michelson said. “It’s maybe something that people don’t think about, and if we get them thinking about it, then they’re going to do something about it.”
In a related measure, the Council instructed city staff to work toward drafting an ordinance that will monitor and control the presence of “large animals” within the city limits.
The request from Rodgers came on the heels of complaints of situations where horses, goats and other livestock were being housed on small lots in residential areas. While he said it was important that the City be sensitive to special circumstances, such as 4-H and FFA students raising projects for stock shows, he noted there are also circumstances where the keeping of livestock in residential areas has created a health and safety concern.
The council will likely address that measure later in the spring, as well.
The Lockhart City Council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month in the third floor Council Chambers at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library complex. The meetings are open to the public and are televised on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.