City stepping in to tackle overgrown lots

Houston to pay neighborhood groups to help mow and maintain neglected, overgrown lots
October 21, 2013 4:40:09 PM PDT
City workers say contractors are paid hundreds of dollars for each overgrown and abandoned lots they cut down. But now a new pilot program is offering community groups across Houston a chance to maintain the lots and get paid for that work.

Neighbor Veronica Smith-Myles said, "I'm scared to think who's going to come out of these bushes."

Smith-Myles says there's a big reason she's too afraid to come out of her house on Sauer Street.

"My dog won't go out in the backyard anymore," she said. "My grandbaby can't play in the yard anymore."

The problem, she says, is an overgrown eyesore next to her home.

Smith-Myles said,"I sit on my porch, I watch rats go in and out. I've watched bats fly out. I can't have my grandbaby sitting outside with that."

Smith-Myles says the weeds in the abandoned lot are so tall and thick that it looks like a jungle.

"This is something that would be in a bayou area," she said. "This is not something that I have to live with."

She claims calls to the city about the hazard haven't helped.

"I've called 311, they said they'll be out, they'll be out, they'll be out, they'll be out," Smith-Myles said.

And she isn't alone. City workers say there are hundreds of overgrown and abandoned lots like this in neighborhoods across Houston.

Tomara Bell with the Super Neighborhoods Alliance said,"It has been a major frustration, especially when it's near an elementary school."

That's why city leaders are announcing the Mow Down program. It's a pilot designed to pay civic groups and non-profits $75 per lot each time they cut or maintain one of about 100 city approved lots.

Councilmember Wanda Adams explained, "When the taxpayers and the homeowners or the lot owners when they don't maintain the lot, it puts a burden on the city of Houston to try to go out there and keep them down."

While some neighbors are calling the Mow Down program a plus for some communities, people like Smith-Myles says only time will tell.

"It's a start, but more, a whole lot more needs to be done," she said.

The group Keep Houston Beautiful will provide lawnmowers and equipment to the civic groups who sign up for the Mow Down program.

For more information, visit www.houstontx.gov/ips or email mowdown.don@houstontx.gov.

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