May 18 2020 10:14 AM

Mow to Own proposal aims to reduce city expenses while improving the appearance of neighborhoods.

In Akron, Ohio, Mayor Dan Horrigan wants to launch a program that would transfer properties to neighbors for what it costs them out-of-pocket to fill a lawn mower gas tank for one season, according to an article by the Akron Beacon Journal.

Under the Mow to Own proposal, residents could take ownership of eligible adjacent vacant city lots after a season if they mow the property.

Residents who live adjacent to these first 258 Mow to Own lots will receive a letter in the coming week, asking if they’re interested in cutting the grass this summer in exchange for the land they mow.

The initiative still needs legislative approval. The proposal is expected to come before City Council in June with enough time for neighbors to sign up and start mowing their way to a larger yard.

The program, modeled after similar programs in other Ohio and American cities, has the potential to trim tens of thousands of dollars in city expenses this year while improving the overall aesthetics of neighborhoods by transferring unwanted vacant lots to responsible residents.

The city gets more empty lots each year, usually after a condemned home is torn down, and gets rids of about 50 on average through the Lot for a Little Program, which sells lots for about $250 to $300 to residents who own and live in neighboring homes.

By the beginning of 2020, the city believed it had about 1,400 vacant lots, all of which needed mowed. A team of private and nonprofit lawn care companies, plus court-ordered community service workers, mow each seven to eight times a year for an average of $22 to $25 per visit.

The collection of empty lots that need mowed were loaded into a mobile application then reduced to 1,169, removing lawns that are too heavily wooded to need regular mowing and others that have recently transferred to another owner.

The city is holding onto most of the lots over 3,500 square feet, which is about the minimum footprint to build a home. Some larger lots with undevelopable terrain may be added to the Mow to Own list next year, if City Council approves the program this summer.

Compliance officers already out in the neighborhood inspecting properties will check on the lots two or three times each month.

The program requires applicants to mow from June to November, at which point the Office of Integrated Development would initiate the process of transferring deeds to compliant participants.