October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Frustration grows over properties cited by city of Lorain for chronically tall grass

Will Ammons, of 1244 W. 19th St. in Lorain, looks at the chronically unmowed and unmaintained property next door to his home at 1246 W. 19th St on Aug. 1.  Steve Manheim

Will Ammons, of 1244 W. 19th St. in Lorain, looks at the chronically unmowed and unmaintained property next door to his home at 1246 W. 19th St on Aug. 1.
Steve Manheim

Bryan Kuehn said he peeks out his back door before stepping into the backyard of the home he lives in at 1218 W. Seventh St.

Kuehn lives across from an abandoned home at 1223 W. Sixth St. Groundhogs, possums, raccoons and skunks live under the porch of the home and inhabit the high grass in the backyard. Kuehn said the critters frequently come into his yard and the yards of his neighbors and have killed two neighbors’ puppies.

Kuehn keeps a trap in his backyard and said he has caught three groundhogs, eight possums and two skunks since April. Kuehn said he released some of the animals but was instructed by city officials to kill the possums.

Kuehn said he worries about himself or Mandy Burns, his fiancee, or Bryan Kuehn Jr., his 18-year-old son, being bitten. He also worries about his two dogs — Otis, an easygoing 10-year-old Labrador and Sasha, a 6-year-old pug — being bitten or killed.

“The animals are driving us nuts,” said Kuehn who said he’s considering moving when the mortgage on Burns’ home is paid in 2015. “It’s pretty disturbing.”

Kuehn lives next to one of the chronic violators of the ordinance, which requires property owners to cut grass that is eight inches or higher within five days of being notified by Lorain officials. Violators are fined $300 for every hour city contractors spend cutting the grass. Chronic violators are defined as property owners who’ve been fined at least three times since the city began hiring contractors to cut high grass in 2012.

The house at 1223 W. Sixth St. — which Lorain officials said is owned by EAI Investments LLC — was one of 12 chronic violator properties visited by The Chronicle-Telegram on Wednesday. Ten of the properties were abandoned homes and two were empty lots where homes were demolished.

Among the homes was one at 1246 W. 19th St. that the city said is owned by Roger and Theresa Dudley. Next door neighbor Will Ammons said feral cats, skunks and woodchucks that inhabit the high grass stink up the area and come into his backyard and destroy his garden.

“I can’t keep nothing back there,” said the 89-year-old Ammons, who said he’s trapped four or five woodchucks this year in his backyard.

Besides making properties bigger eyesores and drawing insects and critters, high grass outside an abandoned home can be an invitation to addicts, squatters and vandals. Nilca Rosario of 1043 W. 14th St., said her brother boarded up windows in the back of the abandoned home next store at 1039 W. 14th St. to keep people from getting in. The home is owned by Orlando Melendez and Carmen Naranjo, Lorain officials said.

Rosario, a mother of four children between 13- and 18-years-old, said it’s scary living next to an abandoned home. Rosario said she called police on a man she said was using drugs in the home earlier this year.

Safety/Service Director Robert Fowler said he’s sympathetic to residents like Rosario. Several residents living by chronic violators said lawns have been cut more since Lorain began hiring contractors, but Fowler said it’s hard to keep up.

There have been at least 1,300 complaints this year compared to about 950 last year, a nearly 37 percent increase. The complaints are a symptom of Lorain’s high foreclosure rate.
One in every 432 homes was in foreclosure in Lorain in June, according to Realty Trac, a real estate website. The rate was substantially higher than the Lorain County rate of one in 567, the overall Ohio rate of one in 648 and the national rate of one every 1,025.

Fowler said many of the properties are “zombie foreclosures” in which the homeowner has left after receiving a foreclosure notice from a bank. However, the bank hasn’t taken possession of the home, leaving the homeowner on the hook for maintenance and in some cases, property taxes. With 17,367 this year, Ohio was fourth in the nation for zombie foreclosures, according to Realty Trac.

Fines are attached as liens to properties, but Fowler said it’s hard to track down violators involved in zombie foreclosures. Lorain paid contractors about $40,000 to mow high grass in 2012, but just $23,000 in fines were paid. While unsure how to improve collection, Fowler said Lorain is considering giving contractors multiyear contracts to increase the high lawns mowed.

“It’s a public safety issue,” he said. “We just can’t get them cut fast enough.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.


  • Ray Venn

    Make it a crime, cite them then issue a warrant for their arrest for not showing in court.

    You get a couple of those people arrested and tossed in jail for a bit and I bet the absentee homeowners start showing up real fast.

    • Mark

      being it is owned by a “business”, you have a hard time finding an “individual” to take the hit. Look at the Pilot stuff going on with Hamslen or whatever his name is.

      • Ray Venn

        Walk into “the business” and yank out the bank CEO or president of the company(LLC) in cuffs and I bet grass starts getting cut real fast in Lorain.

        • Joe Smith

          Or not make something so petty as not cutting your grass a crime. Cut the grass and put a lien on the property so they have to pay for it.

          • Ray Venn

            Do you not get if they’re not paying the mortgage they’re not going to pay to get the grass cut and they think once they “walk away” that’s the end of it.

            Every single piece of property is “owned” by someone. Put a couple of those “someone’s” in jail for a few days, publicize it and I guarantee that some of those delinquent owners magically appear.

            Also, there needs to be a case made for landlords who have signed rental agreements which spells out lawn care that the TENANTS be held responsible by the city.

            The dealership isn’t charged when you get caught speeding in a leased car is it?

          • Joe Smith

            Do you not get that not cutting your grass is not a crime period. You don’t put people in jail for that its just stupid to even consider it. If tenants don’t cut the grass, fine them and put a lien on something they own like their car or their taxes etc.

  • Mark

    hmmm… if a neighbor(hood) has such a concern, isn’t it worth the dollar in gas to mow it once in a while? I mean, the individual gains by not having the rodent problem, the block gains by not having the eyesore, and the cost is truly negligible… although there is some physical effort and time involved. Next time the city nips it (since it’s too tall for a push mower now), hit it once a week (less if it finally stops raining so much) or so to maintain it.

    I doubt lazy non-caring EIC would have an issue with it, and know the city isn’t going to fine you for it (let alone do anything to EIC to get them on it)… but being you are in Lorain, be forewarned the unions might try to chase you outta town for taking from their $300 an hour profit.

    • agent5959

      The only people that can stop you from mowing the neighbor’s lawn are the neighbors, for (technically) trespassing. And since they’re not around, it’s not a problem. Unions protect their jobs to ensure they don’t become unemployed, but I don’t think this is going to be a concern.

  • cioceann

    Remove the grass completely and make it a dirt lot for all of these homes. Just bring in the heavy equipment and remove all of the sod.

  • Jeff Kaye

    Next time the grass is mowed, Bryan needs to take a walk with a pump-sprayer full of Round-Up Vegetation Killer. Problem solved.

  • hottamomma

    if the owners dont take care of it, then make them forfeit the house and bull doze it of give it to habitat for humanity

    • agent5959

      This is the correct answer. If a property is not being used, let someone use it. We have millions of empty houses and millions of homeless people… that’s a stupid set of problems, right there.

  • CheriCampbell

    Ernest Iseminger is the statutory agent of EAI Investments, per the OH Secretary of State corporation registration. According to a LinkedIn profile, an Ernest Iseminger is the VP of development & alumni affairs at Oberlin College http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ernest-iseminger/7/393/296

    • Ray Venn

      He was real hard to find wasn’t he…lol

    • GreatRedeemer

      It seems its just another out of city owner that don’t care about Lorain.

  • Carrie Watson

    I would think about putting up a fence if I were worried about critters getting into my yard and possibly killing my animals or messing up my garden. I know fencing can be pricey, though.

  • Zen Grouch

    The owners would probably start taking care of the property if someone were to smash out a large window or kick in the back door, release all the critters caught in the vicinity of the house -into- the house, then maybe throw a couple open cans of dog food through various windows every day.

    …either that, or the neighbors could just get together and take turns cutting the grass, plus smash a window every once in a while.

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