Proposed garden restrictions in Columbiana rile resident

COLUMBIANA–The city is not out to take away your freedom. To think so is “ridiculous,” according to Mayor Bryan Blakeman.

Blakeman made the statement during last week’s council meeting in response to a Facebook post by resident Tony Dolan which indicated that legislation pertaining to gardens is another step by the city to encroach on personal freedom.

“It has been frighteningly apparent that we in this city have given our freedoms up in ways that we never really saw coming,” Dolan wrote in the Columbiana for/against Chickens Facebook page.

Dolan also posted copies of ordinances council was expected to discuss during last week’s meeting. One of those ordinances was to amend section 1260.16 of the planning and zoning code to include language pertaining to the planting and growing of fruits, vegetables and grapevines.

The other related to the keeping of chickens in town.

The garden legislation would amend the zoning code to allow gardens on residential property, but Dolan and others at the meeting believed it was just another effort on the city’s part to restrict their rights.

The proposed amendment originally stated that residential gardens would need to be confined to rear yards, but that wording was later removed by a motion of council during the meeting.

Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell said the garden issue came about as a result of the chicken issue.

He explained that people were asking why chickens couldn’t be allowed in the community while gardens were.

The city had no laws pertaining to residential gardens, which means they were technically not allowed.

According to the city’s laws, if something is not permitted it is prohibited.

“Right now, if there is not something expressly in this code that says that you can have one, you technically can’t,” Blakeman confirmed.

He went on to say that the city’s effort to make a law allowing gardens is something that should be seen as a good move by residents.

“The intention of it is to not to take away, it is to give,” he said.

The legislation put before council that evening for a first reading originated from the city’s planning commission, apparently in response to a request from the Way Station, which had requested during the April 25 commission meeting that the organization be allowed to establish a raised garden bed in the front yard of the building along with a six-foot fence.

The commission approved conditional zoning for the organization to establish the garden at its 769 Springfield Road location.

Tucker Cope Jr., who is on the planning commission, explained that the reasoning behind the rear-yard restriction in their recommended legislation was because gardens attract wildlife and he felt that having a garden in a front yard could lead to traffic problems, since most front yards are directly in front of a road.

“People have been growing gardens for as long as I can remember in Columbiana, and have never had a problem,” Councilman Dick McBane said.

He also said he wondered if the city is “abusing that phrase,” referring to the if it’s not permitted it is prohibited law.

“I think we are over-using this and using it as a convenient way to try to stop something,” he said.

Dolan told council toward the end of the meeting that he posted the information on Facebook because people needed to know what was going on.

“People do not know what is going on and the planning commission takes an action and it is viewed as the government choosing to do something without consent. Therefore, people are here. That is what the comment was, to get people involved and understand that action is being taken with or without approval from the city,” he said.

McBane said he agreed with Blakeman that the Facebook post made “accusations” toward how the city was operating.

Former mayor, planning commission member, council member and zoning board of appeals member Dick Simpson said that had Dolan not posted the information, no one would have known what was going on.

“I don’t know how that ordinance would have been put out there. We wouldn’t know. We have a right to know. It quite possibly could be — I am not accusing — but it could have been a back-door thing,” Simpson said.

Blakeman said he felt the post was “irresponsible.”

McBane pointed out that city business is not done overnight.

“Nothing happens fast here. We are faster than Congress, but only by a little bit,” he joked.

A public hearing has been set for 7:15 p.m. June 6 to discuss the legislation. The legislation was given a first reading by council that evening. A second reading is required before a vote.

The legislation also states that decorative and ornamental plants and trees as well as flowers are permitted to be planted in any lot in any zoning district in the city.


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