SOUTH PORTLAND – Two weeks after hashing out the evils of unsightly storage pods, the South Portland City Council on Monday fast-tracked new ordinance language designed to address yards that lack such organization.

More than a dozen residents turned out for a council workshop on the city’s general nuisances ordinance to complain about the yard of neighbors they called “disgusting” and a drag on their property values. For too long, they said, these property owners have ignored letters from Code Enforcement Officer Pat Doucette, who complained of being powerless to do more than ask.

“I want this thing to have some teeth,” said Councilor Maxine Beecher, taking the residents’ side.

“I don’t want to play these games and I don’t want to live in your neighborhood,” she added, after reviewing photographs of some of the offending properties, taken by Doucette.

Mayor Patti Smith said a first reading of the new ordinance will take place at the Oct. 1 council meeting.

“I am in favor of putting some major teeth in this so we can have action immediately to clean up our city,” she said, stumping for the new rules to apply throughout the city, regardless of zoning district.

City Attorney Sally Daggett, who noted that the ordinance in question has not been updated since 1966, cautioned the council against getting too carried away with the complaints of residents.

“The city doesn’t want to be regulating aesthetic conditions,” she said. “There has to be some that exists on the property that poses a public health or safety issue. We don’t want to be, say, regulating how high someone’s grass is.”

The proposal, as presented at workshop, defines what constitutes a nuisance, such as “allowing the discharge of toxic or noxious materials,” but also, in residential zones, allowing “the outdoor storage of any worn out, broken or worthless item” for more than 15 days.

While a complaint of such a nuisance may be brought to the City Council by “any city official,” a petition also may be delivered by at least 10 residents living within 500 feet of the aggrieving property. However, the council becomes away of a potential nuisance property, it is to conduct a public hearing and, if it agrees, will issue an order giving the property owner 15 days to clean up his or her lot.

The ordinance proposal leaves fine amounts to the discretion of the courts, but does cite each day after the first 15 as a “separate offense.”

“That’s what gets property owners to clean the property up,” said Daggett. “That’s the hammer you have.”

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