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man cited for hedge, vacant house

February 04, 1999

Vacant houseBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




The City of Hagerstown scored two victories in Washington County District Court on Thursday when property owner Vincent Groh was found guilty of property code violations concerning a hedge in the North End and a vacant house in the South End.

More than a year after the city lost a court battle with Groh about an overgrown hedge the city claimed was in the public right of way, Groh said it's OK for the city to cut it back.

On Nov. 5, 1997, Judge Noel Spence fined Groh $1 and expressed his dissatisfaction with the city's safety argument because a utility pole and sign also were in the middle of the sidewalk in front of 603 Oak Hill Ave.

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The city cited Groh last fall for failing to remove trash from the hedge along the sidewalk, said Marc David, a city code enforcement officer.

The trash was cleaned up after the citation was issued, but not before two notices were sent to Groh to clean it up, he said.

Groh said that since the city argued in November 1997 that the hedge was in the public right of way, so was the trash, making it the city's problem.

"You can't have your cake and eat it too Mr. Groh," said Spence, who ordered Groh to pay $25 in fines and court costs.

When Spence asked Groh if it was OK for the city to cut the hedge, Groh said yes.

City Building Inspector Mike Heyser said his office will discuss what to do with the hedge.

City Councilman J. Wallace McClure, who took a personal interest in getting the hedge trimmed last year, said he was pleased with the outcome.

McClure, who witnessed Groh's trials on Thursday, said he was irritated Groh took the citations about the hedge and a vacant house at 527 Reynolds Ave. to court.

Most people would try to comply with the city code when they get a violation notice, he said.

"All he has to do is start trying to fix these properties up and be a good steward," McClure said.

Ruth Ann Barron, who lives next door to the house, testified that rainwater drains off the roof at 527 Reynolds Ave. and into her basement and onto the front porch, rotting wood.

Spence found Groh guilty on four of six citations dealing with the Reynolds Avenue house.

They were for failure to:

* Replace missing stairs to a side door and failure to replace deteriorating sections of a rear porch.

* Remove all chipping and peeling paint and repaint exposed surfaces.

* Repair footer for rear porch.

* Repair missing and deteriorating spouting.

Groh was found not guilty of failure to repair all missing or broken window glass and failure to repair or replace broken or deteriorated doors.

Groh said the citations were ridiculous. He said the house was being rehabilitated, but told Spence he didn't have a permit for such work.

Spence ordered Groh to pay $120 in fines and court costs for the Reynolds Avenue violations. Groh was given 60 days to abate the violations, except for the chipping and peeling paint. He was given 120 days to fix the paint.

Groh told the judge he would try to get the work done in a reasonable amount of time. "I have more than one fish to fry," he said.

Spence replied that because of that Groh had the resources to fry more than one fish at a time.

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