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Conyers resident feels forced to cut grass of bank-owned property

CONYERS — Every couple of weeks, Conyers resident Mike Polizzi mows the lawn. With all the rain this spring and summer, the grass and weeds are growing more uncontrollably and now he has to deal with ridding his property of poison ivy, rodents and a couple of feral cats. He’s noticed that weeds the sizes of small bushes are growing out of the gutters.

Mike Polizzi is doing the best he can. The problem is, this yard isn’t his. It’s the vacant property next door.

“My neighbor across the street and I have been swapping off mowing every couple of weeks,” Polizzi said. “I think banks have owned the home, because it’s been vacant for five or six years and has been under different management companies. I have fought with them to have somebody come out.”

He has also contacted the city of Conyers code enforcement. At the end of May, the city posted a warning to the front door of the Lark Lane home stating the property was in violation of city codes for not maintaining the lawn and overgrown vegetation in the gutters and an inspection would be conducted on June 3.

A call by the Citizen to the number listed by the management company, Chase Home Finance LLC, was disconnected.

“My wife and I are, No. 1, more concerned about what it’s doing to the neighborhood and No. 2, that nobody is taking responsibility for this,” said Polizzi, who has lived in his Lark Lane residence since 2007.

Marvin Flanigan, director of planning and inspections for the city of Conyers, said code enforcement on properties owned or managed by people or companies that do not live in the city is a “dilemma.”

He said that when the city is notified of a potential code violation, an inspector will generally visit the property to see what the issue is.

“Then we’ll give the property owner notification by way of a certified letter and a letter mailed by regular U.S. mail. If they don’t mow the grass in a certain amount of time, we’ll issue a citation for court,” Flanigan said.

When the property involves a mortgage company or management company, it takes longer to research who the actual property owner is.

“There has to be proper notification and we must give the present property owner the opportunity to clean his property,” Flanigan said. “If they don’t, then we issue a citation for the property owner to appear in court. If the owner is from out of town, that often leaves us sitting here with the issue and trying to figure out what to do with it. For the homeowners still in the area, it’s a dilemma.”

He said that the city does not have an ordinance that permits crews to come onto private property to cut the grass of overgrown properties. In extreme circumstances, the city can instigate the nuisance process to demolish properties that are in such disrepair that they cause a danger to the public. However, Flanigan said, those cases are rare and complicated.

“The remedy is to finally get in touch with someone we can communicate with to get the issue resolved,” Flanigan said. “Sometimes it takes longer than other properties.”

The good news is that the number of vacant or abandoned properties has decreased since 2008 as the real estate market is picking back up.

Polizzi said he understands the city has to follow a process that can take time, but after years of very little action, he’s frustrated.

“I would like to have some sort of perceived movement,” he said. “The fact is I shouldn’t have to spend my time and my gas to mow that lawn because I’m afraid of what’s in the yard.”