Friday, August 8, 2008

Real Estate's Dead, But Weeds Look Healthy

Is it just our imagination, or is Bend looking weedier (and seedier) than usual this summer?

Posted By on Fri, Aug 8, 2008 at 1:26 PM

Is it just our imagination, or is Bend looking weedier (and seedier) than usual this summer?

A month ago the BendBubble2 blog commented on the proliferation of weeds around town, attributing it to the real estate bust.

"Problem is Bend is hucked-full of empty houses," wrote "I Hate to Burst Your Bubble." "These things aren't getting minimal maintenance, they're getting none. And you'd think that after a long, cold winter, things would brighten, and all would be well, and that at the very least, the landscape here would 'stage' itself. After all, many front yards are meant to mirror desert scrub. But it's not working out that way."

IHTBYB proves his point by posting a bunch of photos of really butt-ugly weed-filled yards (plus a lot of colorful, funny and obscene comments).

Why can't the city do something about all this unsightly - and potentially dangerous - overgrowth that threatens to make Bend look like some 1930s Oklahoma dust bowl town? We spoke with Bend Deputy Fire Chief Gary Marshall to get the straight skinny.

The city has an ordinance requiring property owners to cut down weeds if they become a fire hazard, he explained. The problem, as always, is money.

If the fire department finds high weeds growing within 10 feet of any building, tree or fence it will give the property owner 14 days to cut them down, Marshall said. If the weeds are still not cut after two weeks the owner generally will get "a few more days" to do it.

Finally, the fire department can ask the city public works department to send out a crew to cut the weeds and bill the property owner for the work. The city also can slap the owner with a $250 fine, Marshall said. Trouble is, budget cuts resulting from the real estate collapse mean there aren't enough city crews to get the job done.

There's another problem, Marshall said: "We have so many property owners that don't live in the state. We send them certified letters [telling them to cut their weeds] and we don't get a reply. We really have no way to go after these people."

The Eye has no way of knowing how many of those out-of-state weed scofflaws are former real estate "investors" (aka speculators, aka flippers) who just took off for points south, north, west and east when the Bend market went belly-up - but we suspect there are more than a few.

Anyway, if you spot a weed problem you can call the city's weed control hotline, 541-317-3002, Ext. 3. Good luck.

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