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Talkin' Trash: Dealing with a double standard

Posted at 5:35 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 17:35:27-04

BALTIMORE — A neighborhood in West Baltimore is dealing with issues connected improper maintenance of vacant lots owned by the city.

"I can’t call it anything other than what it is, a mess," said Martina Squire.

Squire lives in the 2200 block of Rosedale Street. She and her neighbors' property back up to several vacant owned lots owned by Baltimore City.

"We have weeds that have turned into trees," she said. The overgrowth has contributed to animals moving in.

There's also a horrible smell coming downwind.

"As soon as you open the door to your car you just have this foul odor that’s coming from this area because you have a rat infestation," she said. "The rodents come from down the hill and come over and start ravaging our yards, trash and whatever."

Squire and her neighbors have called 311 repeatedly. Neighbors tell WMAR-2 News they remember a time when crews came for regularly scheduled cleanups but can't remember the last time, they saw crews.

"We’re dealing with now is a double standard," said Squire. "If this was a fixed over here at the property line, we would be fined up the wazoo. We would be paying fines, we would be making court appearances but because this is city owned, they get a pass."

WMAR reached out to the Department of Housing & Community Development. DHCD oversees the city's vacant lots.

In a statement a spokesperson said,

"Regarding the upkeep and maintenance of city-owned lots, DPW and DHCD consistently work together to create work orders and to have such lots cut and or cleaned.

The two locations you’ve asked about are very large lots where we routinely keep open notices so that we can quickly create work orders for DPW when the lots need to be cut or cleaned.

Our records show both lots have been cut in recent months. DPW can let us know when they will be able to go out and cut the lots again."

It's unclear what dates the city came out. Neighbors say there's no way the vegetation could have grown back that fast.

"It’s been over a year and a half since the last time they’ve been out," said neighbor Zaleema Duppins.

Aside from the unsightliness of the vacant lots there's also safety concerns.

"You have no idea what's coming up the street," said neighbor Tiffany Price.

Price lives on North Ellamont Street.

"I can't even see the street from my porch, and I live right next to the lot."

Price is concerned that anyone can walk up and potentially rob you.

"You have no idea what out there because it's so high," she said. "It's just a problem all around."

WMAR reached out to Councilman James Torrence who represents the area. Over the phone he said he's aware of the situation and put in a call to DPW to have an immediate work order put in."

While grateful, neighbors don't want a knee-jerk reaction.

"If you properly maintain the lots with scheduled maintenance you won't have to work so hard," said Squire. "This is going to talk more than a mower to clear these lots."