Six inches or less, Fort Collins grass laws

Photo Illustration: The City of Fort Collins has fined residents for excessivley tall grass
The City of Fort Collins has fined residents for excessively tall grass. Photo by Eliott Foust.

Grass: in Fort Collins, if residents grow it, they better mow it – if not, they might be fined. Fort Collins’ city code clearly defines the city’s expectations of yard maintenance – no rubbish heaps, no brush piles or noxious weeds and no rundown fences. Among other requirements, the code also dictates the maximum length of grass allowed by the city. According to city code, grass cannot exceed a height of 6 inches in yards and alleyways. Grass in fields and undeveloped lots must be no taller than a foot. Last month, Lindsey Earl, Colorado State University alumna, became aware of the city’s grass codes when she was informed that if she would not cut her grass, the city would do it for her and assess the cost on her behalf. Earl, a former environmental sociology major, said she was trying to create a natural grassland habitat when she found out about the city code violation. “It all started last year when we didn’t have a lawn mower,” Earl joked. With no equipment to cut the grass, Earl just let it grow and graduated in December. “We actually ended up loving it in the backyard,” Earl said. “We would go out there, put out a blanket and lay in the grass.” Earl admits that at one point, her backyard began to look like a forest. “The grass was pretty much up to our neck it was so tall.” “We really enjoyed it,” Earl said. “There were a lot more different types of plants, insects and animals back there.” Unaware of the city’s grass length standards, she neglected to think of it as an issue. “The backyard is completely bordered by trees, so it wasn’t like anyone else would be able to see it,” Earl said. Local resident Todd Scheer says he mows his grass at least once a week. “If you’re trying to create a natural habitat that’s one thing,” Scheer said. “But I don’t think it’s right if someone just wants to be lazy and not mow, at least in the city.” In June, Earl received a notification informing her that the grass in both the front and backyard exceeded the 6-inch limit and needed to be cut.

A tracter sits covered in weeds on Laporte Avenue. Some residents have been fined for excessively tall grass.
A tractor sits covered in weeds on Laporte Avenue. Some residents have been fined for excessively tall grass.

Notifications are generally sent for two reasons: either someone complained about a code violation, or city inspectors noticed one while performing a routine patrol. If the problem is not corrected within a week after being notified, the city will pay for the services to be performed and assess the cost to the property owner or renter. According to Polly Lauridsen, Fort Collins’ code compliance supervisor, the majority of violation notifications are issued after neighborhood inspections, not complaints from other residents. “We don’t want people to feel like they have to (call and) complain about one another,” Lauridsen said. Whether it was due to a complaint or an inspection, Earl had seven days to cut her grass. She has since acquired a lawn mower, although it proved to be of little help. “It ended up breaking,” Earl said. “It couldn’t handle the grass in the backyard. We had to get a weed whacker, which took forever.” Despite being unevenly cut and “partially weed whacked,” according to Earl, her yard passed inspection. “I understand we need to mow the front yard because it decreases property value in the area,” Earl said. “However, if it’s the backyard and no one can see it, I don’t really see what the harm is.” The recent graduate is just one of numerous locals who have been notified for neglecting to cut their grass. “I know a bunch of different people who’ve also gotten tickets for it,” Earl said. According to Lauridsen, individuals who own or rent homes in Fort Collins may apply to have a section of their yard considered a certified natural area. As long as the area is free of weeds and “not an eyesore to the neighbors,” Lauridsen said having a small strip of grass for natural habitat purposes has generally not been an issue. For a list of species of grass that are excluded from Fort Collins’ 6-inches-or-less rule, visit the city’s official website.

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Collegian Staff Reporter Erick Plattner can be reached at news@collegian.com.