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A new ordinance in Fate regarding fines related to trees, shrubs and bushes along the city’s streets, alleys and sidewalks leaves open the possibility for some residents to face two different penalties for a single violation.

The Fate City Council on Monday passed an ordinance that adds penalties for residents whose trees and plant life grow to an extent that they hang too low over streets and sidewalks.

According to city documents, “vegetation” that hangs over a street or alley must allow 14 feet of clearance underneath. For sidewalks, that limit is 8 feet.

Penalties for violations would be $500 per day, while infractions that constitute a health and safety, or fire violation could carry a penalty of $2,000 per day.

Will Rugeley, the city’s director of planning and development services, said multiple cities around the Metroplex, including Rockwall, Rowlett and Garland, have similar ordinances to regulate trees and shrubs from being a hazard on right of ways.

“We don’t have anything currently which authorizes us to require the trimming or cutting back of things that are causing an obstruction,” Rugeley told council members.

The ordinance requires that city staff give residents who are in violation of the ordinance a 10-day notice about the violation and how they can avoid a fine.

Before the notices are given out, however, Rugeley said his staff will make an effort to reach residents who are in violation to resolve the issue.

If no contact is made, the city would leave a door tag, allowing two to four days for the problem to be solved. If no progress is made still, the city would give the resident in violation the 10-day notice.

The ordinance also authorizes the city to hire a third party to correct the violation if a violation is not fixed within 10 days. The resident in violation of the ordinance would also be the one who pays the bill.

Councilman Blake Buchanan, Place 3, asked Rugeley whether the ordinance would take precedence over HOA rules that may already regulate the height of trees and shrubs over right of ways in certain neighborhoods.

Rugeley said residents would have to follow whichever policy keeps tree branches and shrubs short would be the regulation that would be followed, and confirmed that the ordinance would be in place even in areas that have HOA rules.

Even if a HOA has fined a resident for violating HOA rules, Rugeley said the city could still collect fines from the same resident for the same violation.

And just as it is the case for HOA-related cases, the city can ultimately file a lien on the resident’s home if the city’s invoices for the work that was done to fix a violation are ignored.

Rugeley said these types of cases are extremely rare, however, as most people tend to address violations in a timely manner.

“If people need more time, as long as there is a really plausible reason for why they need more time, we’ll usually work with them on getting the violations fixed,” he said.

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