DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - The city of Darlington is working on an ordinance that would add penalties for people who routinely have unkempt properties.
The first reading of the habitual offender ordinance was passed at the Darlington City Council meeting Tuesday night.
Lisa Rock, director of planning and economic development, said neglected properties are a big problem in the city and a major eyesore for the community.
"It bothers our residents and it hurts the property values in our area," Rock said.
In the original ordinance, grass can't go above 18 inches. If a complaint is filed, the owner receives a certified letter and must pay the clean-up fee if the city has to come out to their property.
Under the new law, the owner would also have to pay $500 for the second offense and each offense thereafter. If the person still does not pay, an arrest warrant will be issued.
So far this year, the city has sent out 150 warnings to people with unkempt lawns. While the ordinance is for any property, vacant or occupied, Rock said the issue usually lies with owners of vacant land.
"A lot times it's folks that live out of town, folks that have bought property at the tax sale, people that aren't here," Rock said.
"I feel like we don't care about the place where we live," resident Sharon McCullough said
McCullough has lived on Sparks Street for seven years. It is one of the areas that has seen the most neglect.
"Everything is like overgrown and I feel like it makes (it) less appreciative. It depreciates the value of our community," McCullough said.
Rock said the new ordinance will allow the city to put more money and time into things the community really needs.
"Just the postage alone is almost $7 a letter. That's a lot of money that the city could be using on other things," Rock said.
Most importantly, Rock said the new ordinance will help spruce up the city, attracting more businesses and residents.
"Well we hope that the outcome will be that more people will take some pride in the property and keep them in a neat and orderly fashion."
The ordinance will go through a second and final reading at September's city council meeting.