Commissioners Mary Davis, Dennis Williams and John Clarke joined members of the board of directors of the Summerville Neighborhood Association on August 29th in touring selected sites in Summerville where we need the City’s help in beautifying our neighborhood. Our focus was city-owned public spaces, the City property between streets and sidewalks and poorly maintained private lots. We appreciate their responsiveness and their commitment to serving our community.
The Commissioners were very supportive and helpful and will do their best to get City departments to improve maintenance of public spaces. We gave them a list of areas throughout the neighborhood needing attention. In our conversations, however, it became clear to me that those City staff charged with maintaining our public spaces are not qualified to do so and that as a neighborhood we must press them to do a better job.
With regard to poorly maintained private lots, the City has limited legal authority to intervene, but through code enforcement actions, they can address the worst offenders. To ensure this happens, we need the assistance of our residents in reporting the more seriously overgrown and unmaintained properties. While you certainly can do that directly with the City’s code enforcement office, it will be helpful (and perhaps more effective) if you make those reports to the Summerville Neighborhood Association and the Association asks for assistance. You can do that by sending reports to me at email@example.com. I have had occasion to work with the City inspector on several matters and have found him very responsive and willing to go to great lengths to follow up. Keep in mind, however, that if property owners do not respond and are taken to Court, the local judges have been rather lenient in granting property owners extra time to accomplish the required cleanup.
Many property owners are not aware of the City ordinance that requires the owner to maintain the part of the City property in front of their properties, between the sidewalk and the street. In our tour we saw some rather egregious examples of failure to maintain these areas, even in front of some homes with well maintained yards. We will be encouraging the City inspector to approach homeowners to remind them of their obligations.
We brought to the Commissioners’ attention the poor maintenance of medians on Central Avenue and Henry Street (as examples of all such areas). They are aware now of the newly planted trees on Central that have died from lack of maintenance and the failure to install a proper sprinkler system on Henry. We also pointed out that most of these medians are filled with weeds, not good quality grass!
Sometimes we have neighbors who are elderly or otherwise unable to maintain their properties. Perhaps we would be better neighbors if we got a group together to offer to clean up their properties before reporting them to the City.
Please remember that these are issues Citywide! Therefore we will be exploring opportunities to join with other neighborhood associations to look for solutions to these problems. We may be known as the “Garden City,” but today I would say that “Weed City” would be a better description.