City plans tickets for unkempt yards

GREENFIELD — Too many abandoned cars and bags of garbage have begun littering the lawns of some Greenfield residents, and city officials have taken notice.

As a result, they’ve put in place a plan to more strictly enforce current city ordinances regarding yard and home upkeep.

Greenfield Police Department Chief John Jester said he approached Mayor Chuck Fewell about an enforcement program after he and his officers were called to several “properties loaded with trash,” he said.

The condition of these particular properties was so poor it presented potential health and safety hazards to others in the neighborhood, he said.

In response, Jester plans to instruct his officers to keep an eye out for disheveled properties while on patrol and issue tickets to homeowners who are in violation of current city ordinances. Officers will then follow up to make sure the violations have been corrected.

“There are areas around town where people just don’t take care of their properties,” Jester said. “This way, there is concentrated efforts to make sure things are cleaned up.”

Ordinances dictate what the city considers rubbish, garbage and a nuisance, Planning Department director Joanie Fitzwater said.

For example, if an unlicensed vehicle is left on a property for more than five days, the vehicle can be tagged and towed by the police because junked or abandoned cars are considered nuisances, Fitzwater said.

City officials and local police also can penalize homeowners for violating ordinances regarding foul odors, smoke, noise, unkempt trees or shrubs that impede public walkways and a slew of other problems. These violations carry fines up to $100.

Fewell said he has been fielding complaints from residents about the issue for some time.

“The problems spring up when you have five houses on the block that work hard to keep their homes clean and looking nice, and there are one or two that don’t,” he said. “We won’t nitpick about grass length, but we want to have cleaner neighborhoods.”

During the patrols, officers also will be on the lookout for abandoned homes and building owners who might be breaking zoning and code regulations, Fitzwater said. City officials will then take the lead in following up with those owners and issuing the proper penalties.

Fewell said the city will give residents a chance to do their spring cleaning before they crack down, but then the patrols will begin.

If the extra efforts will keep the city’s neighborhoods cleaner, they are worth the time, he said.

“We want to keep the city attractive,” Fewell said. “It’s important that we all have that vision of cleanliness so that people want to come here to visit and do business.”

To report a problem property, contact the Greenfield Police Department at 317-477-4410.

Words to know

City of Greenfield ordinances define garbage as “rejected food wastes and every waste accumulation of animal, fruit, or vegetable matter, used or intended for food, or that attends the preparation, use, cooking, dealing in, or storing of meat, fish, fowl, fruit, or vegetables.”

City of Greenfield ordinances define rubbish as “such matter as ashes, cans, metalware, broken glass, crockery, dirt, sweepings, boxes, wood, grass, weeds, or litter of any kind.”

City of Greenfield ordinances say nuisances “shall depend on its effect on persons of ordinary health and average sensibilities, and not on its effect on persons who are delicate or supersensitive, or whose habit, tastes, or conditions are such that they are never sensible of any annoyance.”

Examples of ordinance violations

The owner, occupant, or lessee of any premises in the city can be ticketed for the following violations, as well as others:

– Permit their properties to become or remain in a filthy or unwholesome condition

– Accumulation of garbage or rubbish to the point that it is in danger of catching fire, attracting vermin or rodents or blowing into the streets.

– Improper garbage disposal, such as burning garbage, leaves or tree limbs

– Not keeping garbage receptacles tightly closes

– Allowing trees or shrubbery to obstruct public walkways

– Emitting noxious odors or smoke from their property

– Store explosives or combustible materials

– Slaughtering animals, such as cattle, hogs or fowl

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or