I voted against putting a lien on a Flagstaff property for the amount of $622 for cleanup of an alleged rodent harborage situation.

The property in question is vacant and the owner has received multiple notices. I admit, the property is an eyesore and in my opinion the owners of the property have been horrible neighbors and their property has many issues.

But Council was asked to place a lien on the property not for its appearance, not for the fact that it is vacant and not for the fact that vagrants and other miscreants may be using the property. Council was asked to put a lien on this property because of an alleged rodent harborage due to “overgrowth of aspen trees, grass and the accumulation of leaves” along with “a wood pile in the rear side yard” and because the neighbors “were seeing an increase in vermin around their property”.

The City contracted a local landscape company to do the following:
• Move tires and shingles to backyard.
• Remove Aspen suckers and suckers around mailbox.
• Trim junipers off driveway.
• Mow/weed wack entire front yard. Clean up all leaves and debris from front yard.
• Remove wood pile near back gate.

For me the argument may have been more compelling if the City had actually found rodents in the aforementioned tires, shingles, overgrown grass, trees and woodpile. The reality is they found zero rodents alive or dead. It also appears to me that if there is a rodent infestation, wouldn’t contracting with a pest removal company have been more appropriate? The reasons listed that triggered the work simply did not align with the actual work contracted. I fail to see how the City performing landscape duties under the pretense of a rodent harborage solves the alleged rodent problem.

Since the vote I’ve given this more thought. While I sympathize with the nieghbor, I’d be upset as well, what have we solved long term? The house is still dilapidated and vacant. If rodents were present surely they are inside the house and still present. The weeds, grass and trees are just going to grow back. The City will most likely continue to manage the yard at the tax payers expense. Worst of all we have now set precedent for anyone living next to a yard deemed as unacceptable or potentially a rodent harborage to request the City to maintain the yard at tax payer expense. Have we also created a potential situation where two neighbors having a dispute can call the city and claim a rodent harborage for their neighbors woodpile, compost pile, garden or who knows what?

Someone else has asked me what my solution is. I must be honest, I am working on trying to solve this problem but I do not have a long term solution. Further, it’s not always the job of government to find solutions to every problem. Often times we create more problems which often lead to unintended consequences through our actions. I fear we may have done this in this situation.

Placing a lien on someone’s private property is a serious step. My hope is that the City has not opened up a can of worms that sets future precedent for future liens on properties for ever varying reasons.


  1. I’m sure the council has already explored any existing city/county codes/laws that could be applied overall to abandoned property. Surely, this is not a new problem.

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