Somerset County tightens nuisance ordinance to distinguish ag products from 'garbage grass'

Habitat protection area also now included in revised ordinance

Posted 8/16/21

PRINCESS ANNE — Property owners in the county who let weeds, grass or vegetation grow taller than 12 inches — and claim it’s for an agricultural purpose — must now possess an …

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Somerset County tightens nuisance ordinance to distinguish ag products from 'garbage grass'

Habitat protection area also now included in revised ordinance

Posted

PRINCESS ANNE — Property owners in the county who let weeds, grass or vegetation grow taller than 12 inches — and claim it’s for an agricultural purpose — must now possess an approved nutrient management plan or it will be considered a violation.

That is one of the new amendments to the nuisance ordinance adopted Aug. 3 by the County Commissioners. The other exception added to the code is when the property is "a habitat protection area, as determined by the Department of Technical and Community Services after conducting an investigation...."

The county previously allowed uncontrolled vegetation only if a parcel was used for "a bona fide agricultural purpose." However, during a public hearing last month, there were complaints from Marion residents who challenged the agricultural value of what one called "garbage grass" growing in his neighborhood.

The county inspector presented photos to the commissioners of overgrown lots in Coulbourn’s Cove, which were in stark contrast to wheat being grown in the Rehobeth Village subdivision.

While these "hayfields" may have been cut and baled for animal feed as the agricultural purpose, mandating a nutrient management plan was inserted into the ordinance.

And, at the 11th hour, Commissioner Vice President Charles Laird asked that this requirement be tied to the property owner, and not a third party who may just add it to other nutrient management plans on other properties.

Mr. Laird said the landowner "is responsible for what goes on, whether leased or whatever," and some "won’t fool with the process."

In response to a property owner who said he does not cut a portion of his land during certain times of the year to benefit wildlife, that too was added as an exception to the height limit in the code. To determine if this is the case, the inspector will consider "the physical characteristics and actual use of the property or other relevant factors."

Violators of the nuisance ordinance have 15 days from the date of a citation to bring the property into compliance or the county will have the work done and bill the property owner.

In response to repeat violations on the same property, the amended ordinance allows for the imposition of administrative fees and a penalty with those amounts yet to be determined by the commissioners.