Property maintenance topic of council study session


TIPP CITY — Amending landscaping requirements was discussed at a study session held by Tipp City Council on Monday evening.

The discussion is, in part, because of a larger issue brought forward by citizens regarding the condition of properties that motorists first see when entering Tipp City off of the interstate — most notably BP, Speedway, and Tipp City Plaza. At a June 7 council meeting, citizens presented council with photos that were taken of untrimmed bushes and overgrown weeds.

Regarding the shrubbery and landscaping between the curb lawn — the area between the street and the sidewalk — Community Development Director Matt Spring said that area is not covered by code as it is in the public right-of-way, and shrubbery and trees are placed there, generally, as part of the streetscape.

“What we’ve found, even with those, just as your own home — you would normally mow the grass in the curb lawn area that’s in the public right-of-way. The city expects that the property owner would maintain the shrubbery and associated mulching and weeding in that curb lawn area, as well, but again, it’s not something that’s normally being done on a regular basis. It certainly isn’t being done universally by all the property owners,” Spring said.

A result of this, Spring said, is ending up with a variety of shrubbery — large, small, alive, dead, well-trimmed and untrimmed bushes — that has what he calls a sawtooth effect, or a mix of well-kept and unkempt shrubbery in one spot that isn’t visually appealing.

“The idea behind bringing this to you was that, we thought there was a certain chance that if it was just all grass, that seems to be a lot easier to maintain than a bunch of bushes that need to be trimmed at least on a yearly basis and replaced if they die,” Spring said. “We are in no way disparaging the planning board’s review of this; we simply wanted to bring some options to the council.”

Mayor Joseph Gibson said he felt a property maintenance code would better address the issue than relaxing the standards for maintaining shrubbery, while Council Member Frank Scenna brought up that a code similar to one for trees could be created to better maintain consistency with bushes. Council President Katelyn Berbach highlighted that the tree code is only for trees that were to be planted after the code was passed, and that previously planted trees are grandfathered in.

“Now, the conversation is, are we going to tell the property owners to rip them out because we’ve changed our code, and now you have to put these in,” Berbach said.

City manager Tim Eggleston clarified that the property maintenance under discussion was specific to commercial lots, such as parking lot areas, and not residential properties. In the future, the code will come to council as an ordinance change.

Berbach said that while she appreciates the effort that was put into the code, she doesn’t feel it’s addressing the issues or that this is the direction they should be moving in.

“I think that we need to be addressing the eyesore issue that we’ve been having. I appreciate the effort that staff has put into this, but I don’t think that this is the direction we should be going in. Different sized bushes, I understand all of that, but even enforcing the well-maintaining of a property would look significantly better than whatever is going on right now,” Berbach said.

Gibson announced during comments of council members at the regular meeting that the proposed property maintenance code’s first draft was completed, and that he is seeking input from council members and citizens alike.

“I’ve talked to a lot of folks about what they want, what they don’t want, and you’d be surprised at what people have called for in drafting this,” Gibson said. “If nothing else, let’s get a conversation started as to what we expect from our city, our property owners and occupiers, and what, if anything, we can do should an issue arise.”

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