The Community Beautification Program (CBP), also known as yard inspections, takes place every year beginning in late spring. Members’ yards are inspected to ensure that they are meeting “minimum upkeep standards.” This year, after revisions to the program, 1,379 units failed their first inspection thereby requiring a second inspection to determine if the citation was corrected. As of the September 3, 2019 Community Beautification Interim Report, 3,470 citations were issued during the first and second inspection.
It is hard to believe that 85% of units aren’t meeting the minimum upkeep standards. When walking around GHI, the egregious violations that I have observed are few and far in between. In fact, it tends to be the same units consistently year after year, and these units have most likely already been identified by GHI. So how is it that 85% of units are violating what is considered to be “minimum upkeep”? Where is the breakdown in the CBP inspections?
Even more concerning than the number of members failing yard inspections is the way in which these strict inspections of members’ yards are not equally applied to common spaces. It seems that GHI as a whole does not hold their responsibility of common space upkeep to the same standards to which it holds its members. I regularly see common spaces with violations for which a member would be cited or see areas of members’ yards which border common spaces which have not been cited and/or required to be corrected.
As part of the Community Beautification Program, these are the community areas which I believe are in violation of the minimum upkeep standards:
- Bare spots in common spaces. GHI common spaces all over Greenbelt are covered with bare spots of more than 2 square feet. Most areas are ignored and thereby deemed acceptable for GHI whilst being unacceptable for its members. I have noticed a few areas being covered by wood chips which concerns me for two reasons: (1) we don’t know if this wood had poison ivy, English ivy, or other invasives growing on it before it was chipped which is now mixed into the wood chips, and (2) some parks around Greenbelt use wood chips as a ground cover (such as the park at Eastway and Ridge and the former park behind 2 Court Laurel Hill) which, during warm, wet seasons, are a breeding ground for unsightly, smelly fungus.
- Obstructed or unclear sidewalks. I walk all over Greenbelt and am very familiar with just about every sidewalk throughout the city. There aren’t many of these areas where I can walk without coming across sidewalks where members haven’t trimmed their hedges or cleared the debris and overgrowth taking over the sidewalk. In most instances, hedges take away up to half of the width of walkable sidewalk space, and debris, overgrowth, or invasives cover at least 6 inches of the sidewalk area. Either these areas aren’t being cited on yard inspections, GHI is not returning to clean these areas as fee-for-service (as the CBP form states), or these are areas for which GHI is responsible and therefore not maintaining.
- Unpainted fences. The playground at 44 Ridge is one of the few playgrounds around with a chain link fence surrounding it. According to GHI’s website, this is one of the eight playgrounds which GHI owns. An agreement with the City states that the City of Greenbelt maintains these playgrounds, where GHI pays a percentage of the maintenance cost. However, the fence is clearly not being maintained and/or GHI has not required that it be maintained. GHI members can be cited for peeling paint on their fence because it is a city ordinance. However, this playground’s paint is in very poor condition and has clearly been overlooked.
- Raking of leaves. It has unfortunately been the case for many years that the leaves in GHI are not raked or not cleared once raked. I have personally called GHI maintenance many times in the past to clear piles of leaves that have been left for weeks on end, sometimes even accumulating snow before the removal has taken place. Members would be cited for a violation such as this, yet I have seen this same problem every autumn over the ten years I have been a member.
The purpose of the Community Beautification Program is to ensure that members meet the minimum upkeep standards. Most members work diligently to upkeep these standards or correct them if not upheld. How are 85% of members failing their yard inspections, yet there is no improvement to those areas which border common space? Additionally, what happens if those responsible for maintaining the common spaces used by the entire community do not themselves maintain the minimum standards? The Community Beautification Program should focus on just that – the community. It should be used as a tool that benefits the community as a whole and makes the effort to focus on those areas which are used by the entire cooperative and city community.