If you see a residential structure in town with unsightly, overgrown weeds, it is because the town of Mount Olive no longer cuts private lots.
Town officials made that decision last year and now — through fines and liens issued to property owners who don’t cut their own lawns — the town is reaping thousands of dollars and eying seized properties for investment.
An ordinance amendment was approved by the town board ordering the town’s code enforcement office to begin issuing violation citations and then fines and ultimately liens against property owners.
Prior to the amendment, Mount Olive officials say they were paying thousands of dollars to keep lawns trimmed during grass-cutting season. But now, the town is no longer absorbing the cost, said Town Manager Charles Brown.
But the same properties seem to be in violation again and again and Brown says the lots are often owned by out-of-town landlords.
“They simply don’t care,” he said.
There have been a number of violations handed down, and some liens taken out against property owners, Brown said.
A first violation is a notification letter. The second violation is a $100 fine. Eventually, those who fail to comply will be hit with a lien on their properties.
The only issue with liens is that it usually takes about a year before the town can claim ownership of a property, Brown said.
“Hopefully, when all this is done we can come into some property that someone is interested in purchasing and redeveloping,” said the town manager.
“One good thing about this entire situation is we have a number of good people interested in taking on some of these properties and putting them back on to the market and the tax books,” Brown explained.
He said there are several people already bidding on properties the town has taken over through the lien process.