Ditches: In general, a homeowner’s job
Ditches and drainage go hand in hand, and the fact that high grass can impede drainage is seemingly well known around here — especially since Tropical Storm Harvey’s floods last summer.
The city of Groves breathed life this week into an old ordinance requiring homeowners to cut their ditches to help drainage. Now come questions of “Whose responsibility is it?” It appears there is no clear-cut answer.
Groves city has recently interpreted a section of their Obstruction of Drainage ordinance to mean that grass 12 inches or taller is an obstruction and impedes drainage.
During a recent meeting, several residents asked the council and city manager if mowing the ditch in front of their home is theirs or the city’s responsibility. City Manager D. Sosa said every situation is different but the point of the new interpretation is that allowing the grass to reach a foot or more in height is a violation.
Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said there are rights of way and easements that allow the city access to utilities on property.
Duque said there are some instances where high grass in ditches is an issue but outside of extenuating circumstances, such as with the elderly and sick, most take care of their ditch.
“It’s difficult to understand people not taking pride in their own property and neighborhood,” Duque said, adding that most people want to help themselves, neighbors and community.
Homeowners who take the stance that it is the city’s responsibility face a price tag.
“If you were to accept the argument that it is the responsibility of the city then you are looking at the city providing the service,” he said. “Look at the number of people needed to do this work. We would have to be looking at hiring new people.”
Services, he said, cost money, especially if the city were to accept responsibility for mowing every ditch in the community. There’re things to be considered: manpower, travel time, equipment, fuel, vehicles to move equipment around, maintenance.
The majority of homeowners take care of their ditches.
“We know the overall spirit of our community is so invested here and always wanting to help our neighbors. Go back 12 months ago, strangers helping strangers,” he said. “It didn’t matter if they were from out of the city, out of state, they helped. That’s the underlying mentality of the majority of our community.”
In a city where 85 percent of the homes suffered damage during the historic flooding from Harvey, maintenance of ditches for drainage is imperative.
According to information from the city of Port Arthur, a ditch is considered an easement just as an alley is and both are to be maintained by the property owner.
The city’s code of ordinances states, “It shall be the responsibility of each property owner to keep ditches, culverts, drains and gutters adjacent to their property free of tall grass, trash or other debris to improve the function of such ditches, culverts, drains and gutters.”
Darlene Thomas-Pierre, director of inspections and code compliance, said the issue of responsibility has been an issue in the city.
“Some people are unaware that it is their responsibility. Clean ditches that are free of grass, trash or debris help alleviate flooding,” Darlene Thomas-Pierre said.
With few exceptions, residents in the city of Port Neches tend to their ditches.
“For the most part the residents maintain the ditches in front of their property recognizing the benefit to themselves and their neighborhood,” Port Neches City Manager Andre Wimer said. “We very much appreciate that.”
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