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Cheektowaga targets absentee landlords who let grass grow too high

The Cheektowaga Town Board is taking a whack at absentee landlords who aren’t mowing their lawns.

Monday, the board passed an amendment to the Brush, Weeds, Obnoxious Growth and Debris Law.

It enables the town to initiate action, beginning with a written notice, when grass height reaches 6 inches – down from the 10-inch limit established in 2001. If the grass isn’t cut within five days, the town may hire a contractor to do the job and assess the cost to the property.

During the meeting, the town was called out Monday for being among property owners that let grass grow to excessive heights between cuttings.

“One of the absentee landlords is you people,” Northcrest Avenue resident Ronald G. Lorek said during a public hearing.

The amendment subsequently was approved by a unanimous vote.

Lawmakers didn’t deny that there are overgrown properties owned by the town.

“This has been an extraordinary year as far as the rain goes. We can’t even keep up,” said Council Member Charles C. Markel.

But residents who attended Monday’s meeting were repeatedly assured that responsible property owners have nothing to worry about.

“We are not going after the individual … on vacation,” Supervisor Mary F. Holtz said.

Council Member Stanley J. Kaznowski III said that in some neighborhoods, including the Pine Hill area, about 30 percent of the houses are owned by absentee landlords. He noted that the town issues up to 400 contracts a year to deal with those overgrown properties.

“Our sole goal is to go after absentee landlords and people who just don’t care about their property,” Kaznowski said. “We are just trying to make Cheektowaga a good place to live.”

In other business Monday, the board unanimously approved the site plan for a Walmart Supercenter on Walden Avenue, east of the Thruway.

The plan features changes made earlier this year by Walmart and Benderson Development Co. at the town’s request. Approved without discussion Monday, it requires the developers to widen Nagel Drive to include a turn lane onto Walden.

The plan also stipulates several site-management controls, including:

• Tractor-trailer deliveries will be limited to between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with all other deliveries limited to between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.

• Walmart will maintain the sidewalk and access to the proposed Metro Bus stop to be located north of the sidewalk along Walden.

• The use of exterior public address speakers for paging personnel will not be allowed, nor will other forms of exterior audio, including music or radio advertising.

Demolition work on the 17.4-acre site, including the removal of the Super Flea & Farmers Market, is expected to last through the end of this year. Construction of the approximately 183,000-square-foot store is expected to begin in early 2014 and take about 18 months to complete.