Lovely tall grass, flowers need mowing
A Clifton couple, Paul Tiger and Kim Rogers, came to the July Clifton Town Board meeting to express dismay and bewilderment over their ditch being mowed where they had hand planted native prairie grasses and flowers.
Tiger and Rogers, W12019 742nd Ave., said they had placed the prairie grasses and flowers along the 400 feet of roadway of their property along 742nd Avenue. However, they were upset when they came home one day to find the ditches mowed.
The couple, who lives in the Gateway Valley development, said they were confused because they hadn't noticed Clifton's ditches being cut since 2002 -- except for one time, when culvert work was done on the road.
Tiger said he thought the consensus in the neighborhood was that the ditches were only mowed about six feet in from the roadway and that he only saw three properties where the ditches were mowed this time: His and two neighbors'.
"We have a few neighbors that feel everything needs to be mowed down to the dirt," Tiger said.
Town Board Supervisor Greg Eggers said that Clifton mows ditches 33 feet from the center of the road.
"It's a town road," Eggers said. "It has to be maintained."
Tiger and Rogers said they had planted the grasses and flowers to help prevent erosion. They said the plants were keeping the soil in their ditch and culvert from washing out.
Both said they didn't see why their plants had to be mowed, especially as they were coming into full bloom.
Eggers explained again that the town contracts to mow ditches along the town roads twice each summer, 33 feet from the center of the road.
"It would be a nightmare for the person we pay to mow to mow this property and not that property," Eggers said.
Eggers said that all the ditches are mowed and maintained equally.
Rogers explained that Minneapolis is more progressive and that many properties don't even need to be mowed because of rain gardens.
She said the long grasses keep the snow and rain in check and that it keeps the excess water from running down to the river.
Town Chairman Leroy Peterson told her that the road right-of-way is the town's property, not personal property.
"You're not living in Minnesota anymore," Peterson said. "We have to go by Wisconsin laws."
Rogers then asked the board to explain the town's rules for maintaining a road.
Peterson said along with the plowing of the road in winter and maintaining the driving surface of the road, the town mows the ditches twice a year and keeps them free of trees and tall grasses, which improves driver visibility.
Rogers said their stretch of road should have no visibility issues since their property drops down below the roadway. She added that an intersection near her home has cedar trees in the right-of-way area, but said those may be a blessing in case a car would go off the road there.
"We're not on an intersection," Rogers said.
Supervisor John Rohl said keeping tall grasses cut is all about giving drivers clear visibility.
"Visibility can be a problem anywhere," Rohl said.
Rogers answered that she plans to go to the development's association since most of her neighbors seem fine with the grass being mowed just six feet into the ditch.
Town Board members, however, countered that since the road is a town road and not private, the grass-mowing rule must be uniform and consistent.
"There are no exceptions, or we have to do it for everyone," Eggers said.
Rogers asked why just three properties were mowed and not all of them in the development. Peterson said he didn't know why or if that was the case, but he would have to ask the man hired to do the mowing.
"If you say most people in your association would prefer to mow all the way to the road themselves, it won't work because not everyone will maintain the right-of-way properly," Eggers said. "We're doing it for liability."
Eggers said if there are trees or tall grasses left in the right of way and someone gets in an accident, that can lead to legal trouble, especially if residents are maintaining the right-of-way and not the town.
Eggers also brought up what would happen if a tree were to go down in a storm in the middle of the night. Who would take care of it? he wondered.
Peterson said the road became a public road when the association dedicated the road to the town.
"They dedicated the 66 feet of right of way to the township and we take care of it," Peterson said.
Eggers said he sees why the plantings of the grasses and flowers are environmentally friendly, but said it could turn into a real problem if neighbors see one property with overgrown plants and trees in a right-of-way.
Rogers reiterated that she hand planted the flowers and prairie grasses and that she could mow it better than the town so it would look more manicured.
She also questioned why the mowing doesn't seem to be consistent everywhere, mentioning Hwy. 10 and other country roads.
Peterson explained that it is consistent everywhere, that one yard can't be mowed 15 feet in, while another is mowed six feet in and yet another 22 feet in.
Eggers also said that most people will not maintain right-of-way properly and that Tiger and Rogers knew they were not buying property on a private road.
"If you didn't want the road paid for with highway funds, you shouldn't have dedicated it a public road," Eggers said.
Eggers went on to say that it would be impossible for the town mower to talk to each individual property owner to see what to mow and what not to mow.
"Do you understand our dilemma?" Eggers asked.
Rogers then asked if she could put a sign up so the mower would know what not to mow. Peterson said absolutely not. The law states that the right-of-ways must be mowed 33 feet from the center of the road.
Peterson then asked why he had heard that Rogers and Tiger called law enforcement when they found out their ditch was mowed.
The couple answered that they had thought their mowing service had mowed it after being told not to, or that someone had done it maliciously.
Peterson restated that the right-of-way is not personal property.
Rogers said she felt singled out because not all properties are uniformly mowed.
"You have a five-acre lot," Peterson said. "Plant your prairie grasses and make the rest of your property beautiful."
Rogers then asked if the shorter plants -- like blue grass, asters and black-eyed susans that only grow about two to three feet tall -- were acceptable.
Again, Peterson said no, they would still get mowed twice a year. He also said that most of her neighbors had told him that the mower did a fine job.
Town Clerk Judy Clement-Lee told Rogers that her options are either being a town road or a private road, and that becoming a private road again is not a likely option.
Rogers said she is going to go to the neighborhood association and see if anything can be done.
"I have my ideas, so I'll pursue my ideas," Rogers said.
Said Peterson: "I appreciate the fact you want it looking nice. But we have to take care of that right-of-way."
In other town business, the board voted to approve ward boundary adjustments in Clifton.
In the county, supervisory districts cannot have more than 1,000 inhabitants, so Clifton has been divided into three wards after the 2010 census.
The board also approved two building permits: