Grass clippings in Lakeside lawns debated

By Ben Johnson Get out the lawnmower, weed whacker, hedge trimmers, rake, and hose because spring has sprung in Duluth and your lawn needs work.

Lawn maintenance has always been one of those unsavory (for most) chores that comes with home ownership, and presenting a meticulously manicured yard is a source of pride for both the homeowner and the neighborhood.

That can be true, according to real estate agent Kris Kapsner, who has been selling homes in the Lakeside area for more than 10 years.

“If I'm showing a home and there's a pile of junk in the neighbor's backyard or an unkempt lawn across the street, that definitely reflects poorly on that house,” Kapsner said. “But the reputation of a neighborhood certainly will be the number one factor.  Some people just want to live in Lakeside and will talk themselves into it.”

Thousands of municipalities across the U.S. have mandatory mowing ordinances aimed at keeping grass low and property values high.  These laws force homeowners with unkempt lawns pay an expensive fee to the city in exchange for mowing a yard with grass over eight to 10 inches.

In 2007 Duluth City Councilman Gary Krause proposed an ordinance that would force landowners to cut grass longer than eight inches and remove any unsightly debris from their lawn, such as fallen tree limbs.  If the landowner failed to comply, the city would do clean up the lawn and charge the owner whatever the mowing and removal cost.  The ordinance passed by a 5-4 vote, but then-mayor Herb Bergson vetoed the measure, citing the city's difficulty in enforcing such a law.

Last year a similar proposal was brought to the city council once again, since current mayor Don Ness was one of the five city councilors who voted for the ordinance in 2007. This time, however, it was voted down by a 5-4 margin.

Despite Lakeside/Lester Park's polished reputation, there are still scraggly lawns sticking out here and there.

“My neighbors across the way, they don't take care of their lawn too well,” said Dave Tollefson, a resident of Lakeside for over 40 years.  “Of course I don't think any lawns in Duluth are that great, mine included,” Tollefson said, as he watered his front yard Monday afternoon.

Tollefson “likes to see a nice yard,” but wouldn't be in favor of an ordinance making a nice yard mandatory.

Although there certainly are exceptions, the consensus seemed to be that Lakeside is home to many often-used mowers.

“I don't have any problems with neighbor's yards” said Gordon Oman. “There's the occasional abandoned building, but for the most part our neighborhood is very nice.”

Oman added that he would be in favor of Krause's original proposal.

Terry Irvin does light raking in the spring and mows whenever he deems necessary, but “not more than once a week.”

“All of my neighbors are real good about [lawn care],” Irvin said.

Adam Zwak, who mows lawns and does light landscaping for a handful of Lakeside residents, is one person who makes sure his neighborhood looks right. He does his work for cheap, as a side job, to keep the neighborhood looking good and help out those who want it. Most of his customers are elderly, although “some could do it, they just don't have the time.”

“Most people in Lakeside keep up their lawns, although there are some that let it become a mess,” he said.

Woodland Middle School unsatisfactory to students, faculty

Native Stand fights against HIV