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Criminal Justice & Legal System

6th Circuit: City can charge homeowner for mowing the grass

UGA College of Ag & Environment
flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A homeowner in Howell has to pay the city for cutting the grass in the public right of way in front of his house. That’s the decision from a federal appeals court.


Lawn-mowing in Howell became a federal case after the city pulled a tree from the strip between the sidewalk and the curb and replaced it with saplings without the homeowner’s approval.

The homeowner, David Shoemaker, essentially said, fine, then you cut the grass. After it grew over eight inches in violation of a city ordinance, neighbors complained and citations were issued. The city paid a lawn company to cut the grass and billed Shoemaker $600 for the costs.

Schoemaker refused and filed a federal lawsuit and won in the lower court. But the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said otherwise and upheld the fees.

The court said the city and the homeowner share ownership of the grass strip, and the ordinance is not unreasonable.

“In fact, under Michigan law, Shoemaker technically owned the property at all relevant times and the city simply possessed a right of way for public use,” says the opinion.

The ruling sends the case back to the federal district court to dismiss Shoemaker’s complaint against the city.