High grass on vacant lots in Rolling Acres is creating a paradise for skunks, opossums, raccoons, and snakes, but a nightmare for residents.
Economic downturns in the housing market continue to take their toll, such as sluggish home sales and few new housing starts, but for residents in the Lithopolis subdivision, the trend has turned to unwanted flora and fauna.
The undeveloped property is owned by DiYanni Brother’s Inc. and DBI Land Company. Lithopolis Mayor Eric Sandine said 15 lots are developed, but there are approximately 70 vacant lots drawing the ire of both the village and residents due to noxious weeds.
"The grass needs to be mowed. Wildlife is running around and it’s getting really bad. There are snakes on porches," said homeowner Jason Lemmon at the July 27 Lithopolis Council meeting, "Our kids walk down the street and we have to pick ticks off of them. The grass is so tall, you can’t see the fire hydrants. We’re concerned. We want houses out there."
Sandine said the village entered into a development agreement with DiYanni in 2003, but he alleged the company has not been compliant. According to Sandine-in addition to not maintaining their property-the company has not reimbursed Lithopolis for construction observation fees paid to inspectors nor a $2,200 mowing assessment bill, they have not fixed the head wall of a Rolling Acres retention pond, or completed punch list items.
"We thought we had an agreement with them (to mow)," said Sandine, "but there are two different corporations to deal with. DiYanni needs to comply with the development agreement and we cannot let them off the hook from tens of thousands of dollars owed to us."
Lithopolis took action last year against the company by serving a notice for high grass and noxious weeds on empty lots in Rolling Acres, but DiYanni did not reply to the legal notice issued by the village, according to village officials. As a result, Lithopolis mowed the property and assessed a fee on the company’s tax duplicate in order to recoup the cost.
"The (new) deal we were working out with them was a win-win," reported Administrator Ed VanVickle. "It’s all manageable. All he (Henry DiYanni, president of DiYanni Homes) has to do is sign the agreement and get it back to us."
Sandine added, "Under this agreement, we won’t be mowing just twice a year. It gives us a lot more flexibility to get grass knocked down out there."
However, in the absence of a signed agreement with DiYanni for reimbursement of maintaining the property, in which the village would receive $1,500 for each lot sold in order to recoup costs, council proceeded with a motion to serve the company with a five-day notice to mow their property. A second motion was drafted directing the village to take action if the developer does not comply with mowing the property and, according to the Ohio Revised Code, assessing the company’s tax duplicate.