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Cambria considers changes to weed-abatement policy enforcement

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The Cambria Community Services District wants to strengthen its weed-abatement policy this year after 550 properties failed to meet last year's deadline.

"2023's fire season was spectacular in terms of how little was done by these 550 properties," Cambria resident Donald Archer told New Times. "It's a good step to see that it is even being discussed, and it's the first step in making it a reality."

FIRE FEAR Cambria resident Donald Archer is hopeful that Cambria Community Service District's efforts to clamp down on weed-abatement violations will help avoid house fires like the one that occurred in September 2023. - COURTESY PHOTO BY THE CAMBRIA CSD
  • Courtesy Photo By The Cambria CSD
  • FIRE FEAR Cambria resident Donald Archer is hopeful that Cambria Community Service District's efforts to clamp down on weed-abatement violations will help avoid house fires like the one that occurred in September 2023.

During its Feb. 8 meeting, the Community Services District board members planned to discuss ways to clamp down on scofflaw property owners who do not clear their vegetation before fire season. Options include adopting stricter guidelines, higher fines for violators, and increased fees if the district has to step in to do the work.

According to a district staff report, if adopted, the new guidelines will move 2024's weed abatement deadline from early fall to early summer without offering extensions to property owners.

In previous years, between 50 and 150 properties failed to comply with the deadlines, the staff report said. The district would then hire independent contractors to clear those parcels and send the bill to the respective owners. However, district staff said that the large increase in noncompliant parcels during 2023 posed a problem.

Archer said that property owners would wait until the last minute and pay the district to clear their lots.

"This works fine and well until you bring a contractor in—who is expecting a smaller amount of properties like years past—and they all of a sudden have way more to clear," Archer said.

Cambria was lucky, Archer said, that a September house fire didn't spread "despite the number of noncompliant properties."

"Residents like me are concerned that if the district does not act on these new policy changes we could be in big trouble again when the next fire season rolls around," Archer said. "I don't know who you can blame here for how long it's taken to address these issues, but I am glad the district is taking the steps to give these weed regulations the teeth they need to be enforced."

New Times didn't hear back from district General Manager Matthew McElhenie or new Fire Chief Michael Burkey before press time. Δ

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