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City Council July, 2005 meeting: Natural landscaping vs. old city ordinance

As a community, we have to ask ourselves how much of the uniqueness of Columbia we are willing to trade off just to become an urban environment.

By Ed Waggener

At the Tuesday night, July 5, 2005, regular City Council meeting, Pam Foust and her daughter, Cary Street, appeared before the Council to ask them to withdraw a Nusiance Notice against Mrs. Foust's property.

While the notice was not rescinded at the meeting, Mayor Bell and the council agreed to visit the property to take another look with the door open to reconsider the City's position.

The local confrontation is part of a wave of challenges to municipal nuisance ordinances by advocates of natural landscaping and by those with fiercely Thoreauvian ideals. Some municipalities, such as Madison, WI, have written ordinances allowing, even encouraging, natural landscaping. But the issue is a relatively fresh one for this community.

The notice Pam Foust and Cary were addressing had been sent the Ralph Hurt Property at 516 Burkesville Street.

Mrs. Foust is Ralph Hurt's daughter and heir. The property she lives on and cares for includes one of Columbia's oldest and most beautiful houses and 20 acres of land. Eleven ago, the family decided to commit the land to natural landscaping. That put the property in conflict with the city nuisance ordinance.

In addition to an oral presentation, Mrs. Street presented a two page written appeal and United States Environmental Protection Agency documentation to support the family's plan for the property.

Mrs. Street is Highway Beautification Manager for the Environmental Division of the Tennessee Department of Transportation and is a widely recognized environmentalist. She has spoken before the National Conference of the National Roadside Vegetation Association. She attended Western Kentucky University and graduated from Middle Tennessee University.

She has spoken at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Foundation in Austin, TX, with Ladybird Johnson in attendance, and worked with former Tennessee First Lady Martha Sundquist on a wildflower program modeled after the program Mrs. Johnson inspired in Texas.

On one point she challenged the Columbia Nuisance Ordinance because the City does not have a board of review. "That's a requirement of Kentucky law," she said, "so we don't believe that the Columbia ordinance is enforceable. There isn't any hearing board."

Senior Council Member Larry Marshall countered that the ordinance could be perfected, and that a board of review could be established, "Let's don't get into that. Let's try to work this out."

Mrs. Street did say, that as a concession and a compromise, the family would be willing to put a 15-ft zone from the Burkesville Street right-of-way into the property. The zone would be in compliance with the present city ordinance. The balance of the property would be continued in its natural landscape.

In a telephone interview after the meeting, Mrs. Street said, "That 15-ft zone would extend behind my grandfather's law office."

The family already maintains a 200-ft clear zone which is maintained from the edge of the right-of-way (Burkesville St.) up the property. "This allows the United States Postal Service to deliver, and does not create a safety hazard for those using the sidewalk," Mrs. Street's written appeal said.

At the meeting, Mrs. Foust said, "We won't maintain the ditch line. And we are going to leave the rest of the property to nature."

The citation Mrs. Foust received was one of some 50 the city issued in the Mayor's clean-up and beautification drive. Mayor Bell said that the undergrowth on the Hurt-Foust land is often cited as a clean-up need. "We're not singling Mrs. Foust out," he said. "We're trying to attract new business and jobs to Columbia."

Mayor Bell did say, during the meeting, that he had not walked over the 20 acres, but that he was eager to do so.

No action was taken on Mrs. Foust's appeal, but Larry Marshall said that he'd like to walk over it. Mrs. Foust and her daughter agreed, and Mayor Bell is arranging the walk-through for himself and the entire City Council. City Attorney Marshall Loy noted that the media will have to be alerted when the walk-through takes place. Saturday, July 9, has been a suggested date.

After the meeting, Mayor Bell said that the city citation is not against the whole property, just the front yard and house area. He said that he is anxious to visit the property and hopes to get the matter settled.

Mrs. Street said, after the meeting, that, the Hurt family members want the same thing. "We want a win-win situation," she said. "I'm hoping that the City takes a new look, and comes up with new answers," she said.

"As a community, we have to ask ourselves how much of the uniqueness of Columbia we are willing to trade off just to become an urban environment."

"I want Columbia to look like what makes Columbia, Columbia," she said. "This is not a cookie cutter town. You turn the corner, and you see something you won't see anywhere else. That's what makes Columbia home for me. I live in Nashville, but Columbia will always be home," she said, in appealing for her family's right to pursue its ideals.

City adopts National Instant Management System technology standards

The City of Columbia will adopt the National Instant Management System, in compliance with the aims of Homeland Security, following a 6-0 vote at last night's regular July meeting, Tuesday, July 5, 2005.

The approval was recommended by Mayor Pat Bell, and was approved on a motion by Council Member June Parsons, seconded by Council Member Craig Dean, with Council Members Larry Marshall, Joe Moore, Charles Grimsley, and Edwin Taylor joining to give the proposal a 6-0 approval.

The aim of the National Instant Management System is to integrate and bring a single standard technology on the Federal, State, local and tribal levels.

Mayor authorized to file application for grant for Water Treatment Plant.

The Council also voted 6-0, on a motion by Larry Marshall seconded by Craig Dean, to authorize Mayor Bell to enter into, sign, and file for a block grant for the Columbia Adair County Regional Water Treatment Plant.

Council hears from Citizen Jack Cravens on water pressure problem

Jack Cravens, who lives at 169 Nancy Lane, off Baker Street, in the Hudson Addition, came before the Council requesting help on a water pressure problem at his home.

Mr. Cravens said he built his house three years ago, and during that time, he said, "When people down the road are using water, we can't get enough water to take a shower."

He said that the installation was done as former Columbia Utilities Commission Manager Jimmy Harper wanted it. "I like him a person," Mr. Cravens said, "but he didn't do the right thing for me." Mr. Cravens said that a new 100 ft line, down Cole Street would solve the problem. "There's a bigger line up Baker Street," he said. "If I could have hooked up to it then, I would have enough water."

He was asked if he had taken the matter up with Jim Williams, the present Columbia Utilities Manager. He said he had, but that Mr. Williams had not gotten back with hiim.

Mayor Bell told Mr. Cravens, "We'll be talking with the Commission and we'll get back to you."

Routine matters approved unanimously

The Council routinely approved minutes of the June 6 and 14, 2005 meetings. The mayor did not make any announcements in the "Mayor's Comment" segment, and only Council Member Larry Marshall commented in the "Council Announcements," portion of the meeting. "I'd like ot walk up there and see what it looks like," he said, in reference to the planned visit to the 20-acre Hurt-Foust Forest Conservancy.

Joe Moore Tradition maintained

Joe Moore maintained his tradition, when his turn in the Council Announcements came up. At 6:51 p.m., he said, "I'd like to adjourn."

And they did.
Click here for the EPA story
Click here for related story: Cary Foust Street sends related link
Click here for related story: Written text of Hurt heirs appeal
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This story was posted on 2005-07-06 06:41:22
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