City Council votes to restrict planting ornamental grasses

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Officials unanimous in their decision to phase out annual hotel/motel tax contribution to Canal Place

Cumberland Times-News, July 31, 2012

Kristin Harty Barkley

CUMBERLAND — City officials have placed restrictions on exactly where residents can plant ornamental grasses, such as bamboo, though one councilman said he’s concerned about how the law will be enforced.

“We’re already having so many problems with people complaining about overgrown grass, issues with dilapidated property,” said Nick Scarpelli, who voted against the ordinance, which was approved 4-1 Tuesday night.

“I think this is just another issue that the code enforcement officers are going to have to worry about,” Scarpelli said.

Calling the new rule an “additional tool for our code enforcement officers to use,” Mayor Brian Grim said the ordinance lays out specific restrictions as to setbacks and “appropriate barriers” to prevent the obstruction of rights of ways.

City Administrator Jeff Rhodes said last week that nuisance complaints are on the rise in Cumberland, and the city sends out 400 to 600 letters every year to negligent property owners. Officials won’t get involved in a weed complaint until the growth exceeds 12 inches, Rhodes said.

Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi said that she initially had reservations about the ornamental grasses ordinance.

“I was concerned about telling people what they could plant on their private property,” Pirolozzi said Tuesday, adding that after studying the ordinance she found it appropriate to the city’s needs.

“We have had some issues on the ornamental grasses,” she said.

In other business Tuesday night, council:

• Voted 5-0 to reduce the amount of hotel/motel tax money it gives to Canal Place, pledging 3 percent in fiscal year 2013, then 2 percent in fiscal year 2014. The city would no longer contribute hotel/motel tax funds to Canal Place after that.

• Voted 5-0 for an ordinance that would place restrictions on how and when bicycle lockers located downtown on Mechanic Street may be used. The new ordinance requires that the five lockers be used for bicycles or bicycle accessories and only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. City police can remove any non-compliant items.

• Voted 5-0 for a personnel ordinance that eliminates seven positions that are listed in the pay ordinance, six of which are vacant. The positions eliminated include director of administrative services; Section 8 Housing manager; executive office associate, parks maintenance manager, chief deputy fire chief, property improvement manager and deputy police chief.

Not filling the vacant positions — and eliminating one position — is expected to save the city around $550,000, Rhodes said.

• Voted 5-0 to deduct $494 from the bill for the National Road Monument, which was engraved on only one side.

“It’s a very nice piece of work, but our expectations were that it be engraved on three sides and not one side,” Rhodes said. Corinthian Stoneworks & Design agreed to reduce the bill, saying that the monument would have to be dismantled for additional engraving to be done.

“Right now it’s better to leave it as it is,” Rhodes said.

Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .