The Investigators: Why DPW is cutting grass on privately owned overgrown lot

The Investigators: Why DPW is cutting grass on privately owned overgrown lot
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An overgrown vacant lot on Mission Dr. in North Baton Rouge has neighbors on both sides upset over the eyesore.

"I want them to get this thing cleaned up and straightened up," said Mildred Trim, who has lived on one side of the lot for the past 33 years.

"It used to look good. It used to be real low just like here," said Joshua Thomas, who lives on the other side of the lot with his mother.

Thomas said not only is it an eyesore, but a safety hazard as well because he said it is used by people running from the police.

"If you're running from the cops and just want to get rid of something, just put it in the hole in the ditch. They're not going to think to look over there. It's too much high grass," said Thomas.

Not to mention the raccoons, possums and snakes coming out from the lot. Plus, he said the neighbors can't even see each other over the lot.

"If I walked through there right now and I was to duck down over by that bush right now, you couldn't even see me and I'm 6'6", 400 lbs," said Thomas.

Weeds in the vacant lot measure more than eight feet high, and that's only in the front of the lot. The further back you go, the higher the weeds get.

Three weeks ago, the city-parish Department of Public Works finally delivered a notice to the owner of the lot, Harold Gibson, ordering that if the lot was not cut down by Sept. 21, 2015, he had to appear in court. The lot was not cut.

It went on to say the owner must maintain the lot so "grass and weeds do not reach a height of more than 12 inches and allowed to remain in such condition for more than two weeks."

But, the last time the lot was cut down was last year in October, and that was by the city, not the owner. That's because Mrs. Gibson said the lot was family owned by her husband who has since died.

"Five years ago, he passed away and they have been asking and asking. We have gone to the lawyers about this. We have now donated the property to the city," said Mr. Gibson's wife Charlotte Gibson.

"It wasn't donated to the city. It just became adjudicated because of the property taxes being in default," said Justin Dupuy, DPW's Code Enforcement Manager.

Dupuy said after Mr. Gibson passed, no one paid the property taxes. He added that once a year, DPW cut the overgrown lot and put a lien on the property since 2010. After learning Tuesday that Mr. Gibson had passed, Dupuy said the lot now has to go through the adjudication process. So technically, Dupuy said the Gibsons still own this vacant lot.

"In the meantime, we get complaints and that's where we step in and ultimately take some responsibility," said Dupuy.

Because the city has received several complaints into their 311 center, Dupuy said the city will go out and cut the lot, but it may not be till the end of October because he said the city has nearly 6,000 lots with overgrown grass and weeds.

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