Another voice heard in Columbiana debate
COLUMBIANA– Petitions are being sought by the citizens committee seeking to change a portion of the city’s zoning law, but in the meantime council is still being asked to change the law in yet another way.
Resident Greg Sprouse presented council with draft legislation he is proposing council consider that would change section 1260.05 of the zoning code, which states that if something is not specifically permitted it is prohibited.
Sprouse is not a member of the citizens committee, but agrees with the overall reasoning behind a change to the law, which is to avoid selective enforcement, which is what the citizens committee believes the law opens the door for local government to do if it chooses.
Sprouse’s recommendation is to add a sentence to the law that states the code not be “construed to deny or disparage the right to participate in hobbies or recreational activities that are not specifically prohibited by other ordinances as long as it is not for commercial purposes.”
Councilman Dick McBane called for a motion to formalize the proposed legislation for council to consider at a future meeting.
Council has not been asked to vote on the legislation yet, only take it into consideration.
In the meantime, the citizens committee is moving forward with its own attempt to change the law, and the two are separate matters.
During the discussion before the motion vote, Councilman Rick Noel, who also serves on the city’s planning commission, asked several times why Sprouse felt a change to the zoning law was necessary.
“I really have a problem with understanding why this is necessary,” he said.
Sprouse reiterated that the proposed change would allow people to have hobbies.
Mayor Bryan Blakeman, who also sits on the planning commission, asked Sprouse what kinds of things he thinks the city should not allow.
Sprouse said he didn’t have a list of anything.
“All I am is a concerned citizen just asking you to consider this,” he said.
Playing devil’s advocate, Blakeman countered that some people may consider bomb-building to be a hobby.
“Some people may want to build bombs in their back yard,” he said.
The comment prompted a laugh from citizens committee member Dan Dattilio, who was seated in the middle of the room.
Blakeman asked him to explain why he was laughing.
“Bombs would be prohibited in about 15 other sections of the code,” Dattilio replied. “I would say it should be up to the wisdom of the council to determine what should or should not be allowed.”
Dattilio also said the committee was aware of Sprouse’s proposal, but that the committee was not involved.
Responding to the original question of necessity, he said, “Let’s be honest, it would put back the ability to have rabbits, chickens.”
Blakeman said it would not.
“This is not about chickens,” Blakeman said, noting that chickens are only allowed in agriculturally zoned areas under the zoning law.
Blakeman also pointed out that the city already has laws that designate what is allowed or not allowed under designated open spaces.
Councilman Dick McBane interjected with a point of order, noting that the discussion needed to stick to the subject at hand, not chickens.
Dattilio then encouraged council to consider Sprouse’s proposal.
“You are going to discuss it at some point. If you do it now, you are controlling the conversation,” he told council.
He then explained the committee’s proposal to change the law would make it so that council decides what is not allowed.
The committee’s change to the law would change the existing wording from prohibited if not permitted to permitted if not prohibited, meaning that if something is not expressly prohibited in the law, it is allowed.
“The proposal would require council to prohibit certain items specifically if they wanted them to be prohibited,” Dattilio said later in the meeting.
“We want council to say it’s illegal. We don’t want Lance (Willard, city manager), or Amanda (Banner, municipal attorney), or somebody else to say it, it should be council,” he explained.
Dattilio said the committee’s affidavit has been accepted by the city and they are now in the next step of the process, which is to gather 200 signatures on a petition in order for council to consider its proposed legislation.
Committee member Tony Dolan said they have about 50 signatures at this point.
“We are gathering signatures at this point but … we are waiting to see what Sprouse’s proposal is going to do,” he said.
Council approved McBane’s motion to formalize Sprouse’s proposed legislation for consideration at a future meeting.