Debate in Columbiana started with chickens, now includes gardens

COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WYTV) – Some Columbiana residents are wondering if they’ll be able to plant gardens in their front yards for much longer.

City council voted Tuesday to not enforce a rule that would ban gardens in residents’ front yards. However, the rule is still in the books and could cause trouble down the road.

The rule “if it doesn’t say you can, then you can’t” has been in existence in Columbiana since the 1970s, even though it has largely been ignored.

Neighbors — and some council members — say the garden issue is just a small piece of a much bigger problem.

It first came about when someone asked if they could have a garden in their front yard and council needed to approve their request.

“The government or any government telling someone what, where, and how they may do something as minuscule as planting a garden,” marveled Tony Dolan, a resident.

One man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he’s had to delay building his raised garden since April and that the wood is still laying in his driveway.

Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell said the gardens are a safety issue. Corner houses with large gardens can block views for drivers turning onto main streets.

“We do not need anymore zoning to fulfill our aesthetic and safety needs,” Dolan said.

Neighbors said it’s only been within the last year that council has been more strict with the “if it doesn’t say so” rule.

This rule is what sparked debate over whether or not residents could own chickens as pets. There is nothing specifically written about having pet chickens so technically, residents are not allowed to have them.

“I think it’s a waste of time. I think they should start using some common sense,” said former Mayor Richard Simpson.

He said it gives council too much power over people’s private property.

“Interpreting it as [council is], you cannot have gardens, you cannot have dogs and cats, you cannot have fish ponds, and quite possibly, it says you can’t park your car in your driveway.”

Councilwoman Crystal Siembida-Boggs wants to get rid of the encompassing rule altogether. She wants to discuss it at the next meeting on July 18.

“We’ll fix this problem with all the issues with the gardens, and chickens, and stuff like that as well,” Siembida-Boggs said.

Simpson said if council fails to change the rules, he will make it a ballot issue in November. He’s already started the paperwork.