Sunday, October 7, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The easement ordinance passed at the June 13, 2007 “Special” meeting (and now officially “on hold”) is bad public policy. Strathmoor Village’s easement ordinance is at odds with the opinions of environmental and horticultural experts. It is contrary to Louisville Metro efforts to improve the environment and health of our community. Specifically, the ordinance is in conflict with the goals and objectives of Louisville Metro’s Air Pollution Control District and Louisville’s Brightside program.
It is well documented that grass has many negative consequences like:
- maintaining turf grass leads to increased use of chemicals that are harmful to birds, butterflies, fish, and our children
- turf grass absorbs more water than flowers and other ground cover, thus encouraging more supplemental watering
- turf grass attracts fewer butterflies and birds that reduce mosquitoes and unwanted insects
- turf grass increases the use of gas mowers that create noise pollution and poor air quality
- mowers and trimmers can be dangerous to operators and bystanders
Finally, landscaping adds value to our homes. Estimates from realty companies put the increase in value from 3 to 10%.
This ordinance is bad public policy and needs to be repealed outright. Any new ordinance needs to be based on sound policies that promote public health and environmentally friendly outcomes.
We finally had some honesty at the Village commissioner’s meeting Monday evening (9/10/07). Mayor Bell admitted that the easement ordinance was more about aesthetics than safety. This was confirmed by Thelma Brooks who explained how she and Michelle Amin had lobbied the commissioners for the ordinance because they didn’t like the three landscaped easements on Gladstone. Amin had “confessed” her role in promoting the ordinance at the August meeting.
Obviously, people differ on what they think is attractive and everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I don’t like large showy tattoos, green hair, or nose rings. But I wouldn’t deny someone the right to decorate their own bodies as they wish. Similarly, I don’t think a few should dictate how others decorate their easements as long as they are not creating a public safety problem. In fact, I think one could better argue that promoting mowed grass/weed easements is a threat to both the environment and public health (see posting titled, Easement Ordinance is Bad Public Policy).
But back to the issue of beauty and aesthetics. I love the three easements on Gladstone! I walk a lot in the neighborhood. While I try to walk different routes, I found myself planning to pass these houses on nearly every trip because I thought they were among the most aesthetically pleasing easements and yards in the neighborhood.
But, you be the judge. Which set of easements do you find most attractive?
The the three easements below, are the "problem" easements that Brooks and Amin don't approve of and would be banned by the easement ordinance.
Here are the easements of the four commissioners who voted for the ordinance. From left to right we have Mayor Bell's weed filled easement, Janet Board's weed filled easement, Tom Bishop's browned out easement, and Marilyn Mitchell's browned out easement.
Here are some more easements that pass the aesthetics and beauty criteria mandated in the easement ordinance. The first one is Thelma Brooks easement. She is one of the two vocal advocates pushing for all easements to be “standards for our neighborhood that maintains [sic] uniformity.” Personally, I'm not into dead browned-out grass but Thelma seems to like it.
So, which easements do think are most attractive? Which would you want in front of your home or your neighbors' houses?
I think it is time Strathmoor Village has some rules for the rule makers. While the Village commissioners have been busy making rules for its residents to follow, they have not bothered to make rules for themselves. That’s right, our Village has no By-laws!
Let’s start with some rules about making rules. We should start with by-laws regulating the passage of ordinances. Much of the controversy about the easement ordinance is the way in which it was passed.
The easement ordinance was first read at a “special” April 3, 2007 meeting. After this reading in which there were but six guests at the “special” meeting, the ordinance itself was never published on the City website, in the published minutes of the meeting, or in the newsletter. The ordinance was read for the second time and passed at another “special” meeting on July 13 when no guests were present. There are often few or no guests at special meetings because they can be called with only 24 hours notice - a notice that consists of posting a note on the front door of the local bank.
Special meetings should be called to deal with emergencies and unexpected events like the original purpose of the June 13 special meeting which was to pass the budget because KY State law required it be in place by July 1. Special meetings should not be used to pass ordinances.
At minimum the By-laws for passing ordinances should include the following:
1. All readings and votes on ordinances can only take place only at regularly scheduled commissioner meetings. Readings and passage of ordinances should not be allowed at special meetings unless it is an emergency situation.
2. After the first reading of an ordinance, it must be published, in full, on the Strathmoor Village website, in the next newsletter, and as part of the minutes for the meeting in which it was first read.
3. There must be at least one regularly scheduled meeting between the first reading of an ordinance and its passage. [This allows for at least one meeting where City residents can publicly discuss the ordinance and allows for the publication of the ordinance in the minutes of the meeting which currently are not published until they have been approved.] Additionally, the second reading cannot take place until at least a week after the delivery of the newsletter containing the full text of the ordinance.