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Geneva neighbor's quest: Get lot's weeds cut down to size

Roy Harmon stands among overgrown grass and weeds on a vacant property next door to his home on Kaneville Road in Geneva.
Roy Harmon stands among overgrown grass and weeds on a vacant property next door to his home on Kaneville Road in Geneva.

GENEVA – Of all the tall weeds growing in the lot next door to Roy Harmon’s house on Kaneville Road, the Queen Anne’s lace was probably the tallest, at three feet.

The clumps of shepherd’s purse, plantains, prickly thistle, clover, foxtail and other weeds were all at different heights, ranging from 10 to 20 inches, all over the one-acre lot.

But what had Harmon, 80, all ticked off was that the weeds needed cutting and it took 68 days from his first contact with his neighbor and 16 days from when he called Geneva officials, after contact with the property’s owner yielded no results, according to those involved.

Harmon repeatedly sent emails to code enforcement, his aldermen and the mayor to get something done, those involved said.

According to city ordinance, weeds, grass or plants – that are not ornamental – are not allowed to be taller than eight inches anywhere in Geneva.

“For 10 years, we have lived with the vacant lot adjacent to our property going to seed – dandelions in the spring, thistles in the fall,” Harmon wrote in a letter about the situation. “As a result, every year we have needed to apply weed killer, fertilizer and weed spray at cost to both purse and body.”

Kevin Stahr, a spokesman for the city, said the weeds went uncut because the lawn care contractor was out of town.

The weeds were cut as of Sept. 4, Harmon said.

For his part, property owner Jack Burgess said Harmon complains too much.

“It’s mowed as often as it has to be,” Burgess said of the vacant lot. “I talked with the fellow who takes care of it, and he tells me I have no problems. I talked to the city last week. It’s been taken care of.”

The lot at 2100 was big news in January 2003, when the homeowner who lived there, Jean Bills, 73, was found frozen to death in her garage. As much of the house’s interior was falling down, including a hole in the roof, the house was razed. 

Burgess bought the lot in November that year for $202,700 property records show. 

Burgess said his wife intended to build a house there but after she became ill with cancer, and then died, they did not build after all.

The lot is listed for sale at $325,000 said Burgess’ real estate agent, Stephen Lane. 

“Where do you get an acre of land with city water and sewer for that price?” Lane said. “It’s one of the best 11 single-family lots for sale in Geneva at one of the best prices.”

As far as Harmon is concerned, he will keep an eye on the weeds.

“It seems that it has been very difficult for the code enforcement officer to pay much attention to the lot,” Harmon said in an email. “So it will be my plan to re-measure about once a week and to e-mail him when the average is clearly eight inches.”

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