Yellow pollen and oak tree “catkins” are abundant this season, stirring up allergies, and clogging streets and driveways with western-looking “tumbleweeds.” Messy, but a nod to the rejuvenations of spring. A stroll or drive down nearly any Mason District street reveals colorful azaleas, rhododendrons, masses of tulips, and the reappearance of decorative grasses in the landscape. The pale lemony green of early spring is ripening into dense dark green, as our leafy tree canopy reappears after a winter’s slumber. Arborists report that this is the perfect time to plant new trees that can replace the many lost to March’s gale force winds. Proper planting now will bring decades of enjoyment to come.
Although spring seemed to arrive very late this year, it didn’t take long for grass (and weeds) to grow, more quickly than many had hoped. Most grass isn’t tall enough (12 inches) yet to elicit what the Department of Code Compliance (DCC) calls “grass complaints.” Yes, grass height in the county is regulated by Chapter 119 — Grass or Lawn Area, of the Code of the County of Fairfax, Virginia, and generally, grass height may not exceed 12 inches. The Code applies to occupied residential lots, as well as any vacant developed lot, that is less than one-half acre (21,780 square feet). The Virginia General Assembly’s enabling legislation restricts the county’s authority for grass to less than half an acre. The Code applies similarly to undeveloped residential property and commercial/industrial property. When a complaint is received for investigation, DCC staff will contact the property owner about the complaint and request that the grass be cut. If there is no action, a notice of violation may be sent and, ultimately, a county contractor will be hired to mow the offending grass, with the cost charged to the homeowner. For lots larger than one-half acre, a warning letter will be sent, but no notice of violation can be issued. Detention ponds, rights-of-way, park lands, and conservation and scenic easements are exempt from the provisions of Chapter 119.
In calendar year 2017, DCC received 1251 grass complaints (growing season generally is April through October). The vast majority (1082) qualified as under a half-acre and, of those, only 41 cuts were required (4 percent). For many code compliance complaints, the property owners are unaware of the potential violation and, once the problem was brought to their attention, they quickly complied, and the case was closed. Yard work can get ahead of a homeowner very quickly. You plan to mow on the weekend, then it rains and you can’t mow, or the mower needs service, or a new blade – all are valid reasons to exercise a little patience. When the yard gets to be a jungle, though, and harbors who-knows-what, it might be time to file a complaint with Code Compliance. You may call 703-324-1300 daytime, or register a complaint online at [email protected] You will need to supply the specific street address for the complaint. Grass complaint collections totaled $6907.27 last year.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]