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Weeds and Other Nuisance Vegetation

This page provides an overview of local weed control and vegetation regulations in Washington State, including sample ordinances and related resources.


Overview

The need to regulate the growth of uncontrolled weeds and other vegetation includes: the prevention of serious fire hazards, the removal of obstructions that interfere with streets and sidewalks, the prevention of noxious weed infestation, and neighborhood preservation. Weeds tend to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants such as desired crops, flower gardens and groundcover, and may become detrimental to public health.

Regulation of unkempt lots and property containing overgrown weeds, debris, and litter is generally accomplished through enforcement of nuisance ordinances. Cities and towns have general authority to address vegetation issues through general nuisance statutes and specific statutes. Counties have specific statutes authorizing weed control districts.

There are statutory provisions in RCW 35.21.310 for any city or town to enact a general ordinance requiring the owner of a property to remove or destroy grass, weed, shrubs, bushes or trees which are growing or have died and are a fire hazard or a menace to public health, safety or welfare. Noxious weeds are addressed in Ch. 17.10 RCW - Noxious Weeds - Control Boards. A noxious weed is defined as a plant that when established is highly destructive, competitive, or difficult to control by cultural or chemical practices. A Washington state noxious weed list appears in Ch. 16-750 WAC and on the Noxious Weed Control Board's website. An additional reference source for noxious weeds is the Noxious Weeds in the U.S. and Canada Database at the University of Montana, supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some local jurisdictions have broadened the definition of weed to include both the state list of noxious weeds and other weeds that are commonly considered a nuisance. See examples of definitions in the selected ordinances in this page.

The state Weed Control Board website has links to helpful resources on the topic. Information on Cooperative Weed Management Areas can be found at the Department of Agriculture. Information on eradicating weeds can also be obtained from Agricultural Extension Offices around the state.


Statutes and Regulations

  • RCW 35.21.310 - Removal of Overhanging or Obstructing Vegetation -- Removal, Destroying Debris (cities and towns)
  • RCW Ch. 17.04 - Weed Districts - Most weed districts have been replaced by county noxious weed control boards
  • RCW Ch. 17.10 - Noxious Weeds-Control Boards
  • Ch. 16-750 WAC - State Noxious Weed List and Schedule of Monetary Penalties

Weed Control Provisions in General Nuisance Ordinances

  • Deer Park Municipal Code Sec. 8.04.020 - Definition of Nuisance - See (H)(2) (r) noxious weeds and (s) Grass and weeds over 12 in.
  • Ellensburg Municipal Code Ch. 5.40 - Nuisances - Weed abatement provisions 5.40.360-5.40.520
  • Kelso Municipal Code Sec. 8.24.050(C)(2) - Types of Enumerated Nuisances
  • SeaTac Municipal Code Sec. 7.15.020 H-J - Property Maintenance - Duty to Maintain Property
  • Union Gap Ordinance No. 2519 (2007) - Adds weedy lots to its nuisance provisions

Separate Weed Control Provisions

  • Edmonds Municipal Code Ch. 6.30 - Noxious Weeds
  • Goldendale Municipal Code Ch. 8.12 - Weeds
  • Kent Municipal Code Ch. 8.07 - Weeds and Vegetation
  • Redmond Municipal Code Ch. 6.12 - Noxious Weed Control and Tree Regulations

Weed Control/Nuisance Abatement Bids and Contracts

  • La Center Landscape Maintenance RFB and Contract (2011) – Nuisance abatement services for approximately five properties in violation of the city nuisance code due to tall grass, weeds, and other vegetation. Includes sample contract.

County Weed Control Programs


Milfoil Removal Programs


Fire Season Weed Abatement

  • Asotin Municipal Code Ch. 8.08 - Weeds, Article I - Dry Weeds
  • Chelan Municipal Code Sec. 8.09.030(B) - Prohibited Conditions Designated - Includes dried weed fire hazard
  • DuPont Municipal Code Ch. 14.04 - Vegetation, See Sec. 14.04.080 - Hazardous conditions--Fire hazards
  • Ellensburg Municipal Code Sec. 5.40.400 - Time for removal - Maximum height of weeds (See also Secs. 5.40.360 - 5.40.520)
  • Everett Municipal Code Ch. 8.08 - Removal of Vegetation. See Sec. 8.08.030 - Dead vegetation—Fire or health hazard
  • Spokane Municipal Code Sec. 10.08.040 - Fire Hazards from Vegetation and Debris
  • Wenatchee Municipal Code Ch. 3.20 - Flammable Materials

Integrated Weed and Vegetation Control

Natural Vegetation Management - Grazing

  • Doesn't That Just Get your Goat!, MRSC Insight, posted on 04/21/2014 by John W. Carpita, PE - Information on use of goats by Washington jurisdictions
  • Goats and Weed Control, by Jim Johnson and Robert Wells, Noble Foundation, 2007
  • Goats, Sheep and Pigs…Oh, My!!, Thurston Stream Team Newsletter, Summer 2012
  • King County Environmental Purchasing Bulletin No. 103, June 2007
  • Healing Hooves - Washington based vegetation removal service using grazing animals
  • East Wenatchee Ordinance No. 2013-03 - Amends the Municipal Code to expand the ability of residents to have farm animals and provide standards applicable to keeping them in a residential area; Sec.17.72.200(J) includes a provision for temporary and periodic use of goats for weed control is permitted within all zoning districts, passed 03/28/2013
  • Mukilteo Municipal Code Sec. 6.18.010 (2) - Livestock - Provides for use of goats and sheep for vegetation control

Vegetation Nuisance Control

Interference with Public Right-of-Way

  • Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 14.06 - Trees, Weeds and Vegetation (affecting right-of-way)
  • Colville Municipal Code Ch. 12.16 - Trees
  • Edmonds Municipal Code Sec. 9.25.010(B) - Street Obstruction
  • Kent Municipal Code Sec. 7.04.260 - Planting of certain trees and shrubbery prohibited (public and private sewer obstruction)
  • Sequim Municipal Code Sec. 8.04.030(A) - Nuisances
  • Walla Walla Municipal Code Ch. 12.44 - Overhanging Vegetation

Height Measures

  • Auburn Municipal Code Sec. 8.20.010 C. Grasses (lawn) within the yards of occupied residential properties which are not maintained at a height of six inches or less are also declared to be a public nuisance....D. Grasses, ground cover, and/or vines on vacant lots that are within or adjacent to developed areas which are not used for agricultural purposes, and are not part of a wetland or other sensitive environmental system, which are not maintained at a height of 12 inches or less are also declared to be a public nuisance...
  • Longview Municipal Code Sec. 16.30.140 - Amendments to International Property Maintenance Code 302.4 Weeds, grass or vegetation - 12 inches for weeds and grasses subject to applicable zoning requirements.
  • Mountlake Terrace Municipal Code Sec. 8.15.040 - Nuisances prohibited A. Vegetation. 1. Vegetation exceeding 12 inches in height (exclusive of plants and flowers within a flower bed or container, shrubbery, or trees) located in any front, back, or side yard, adjacent public right-of-way or planting strip, or any vacant property;
  • Moxee Municipal Code Sec. 8.05.020(4) - Growth higher than 2 feet - Poison oak, poison ivy, deadly nightshade, or any noxious or toxic weed or uncultivated plant (whether growing or otherwise), weeds, tall grass, uncultivated shrubs or growth higher than two feet, or grass clippings, cut brush or cut weeds....(Ord. 503 § 3, 1993)
  • Pasco Municipal Code Sec. 12.12.080 - Nuisances Declared Right-of-way, public property - vegetation over 12 inches - On page 12 of file
  • Richland Municipal Code Sec. 9.16.040(Q) - Grasses and weeds over 12 inches

Trees as Nuisances

See also section above Interference with Public Right-of-Way.

  • Burlington Municipal Code Sec. 8.12.020(D) - Prohibited trees
  • Mercer Island Municipal Code Sec. 8.24.020(B) - Trees, dead, diseased
  • Puyallup Municipal Code Sec. 6.08.210 - Obstructions preventing traffic view
  • Redmond Municipal Code Sec. 6.12.070 - Trees pruned - Notice

Recommended Resources


Last Modified: January 12, 2018