The City of Columbiana, a small town of just over 6,000 in rural Ohio, has gained national attention for proposing a law to legalize gardens, but restrict them to backyards. Even more surprising is the statement of Mayor Blakeman who said that “right now, if there is not something expressly in this code that says that you can have one, you technically can’t.” Apparently, gardens are illegal now! In truth, at the heart of the issue is a local government in a small town that has increasingly restricted individual rights of their citizens to fulfill their vision of a community that is more reminiscent of a Homeowners Association than a just city council.
Public dissent was not well received at the first reading of the council, but the council backed down and initially agreed to remove the front yard garden restriction. Now, it looks like that promise will be reneged. While line of sight ordinances for safety, especially for corner lots, is not unreasonable, using it as an excuse to ban all gardens, regardless of height, is disingenuous. Then again, so is the assumption that somehow vegetables aren’t aesthetically appealing. A well-kept vegetable garden can be just a beautiful as any flower garden. The city leaders are using ordinances unjustly; code may be reasonable for hazardous or even unkempt yards, but there is no reason that vegetable gardens should be discriminated against.
Then again, in Columbiana (code 618.01), all pit bulls are defined as “vicious dogs.”
More battles are ahead for Columbiana including a new initiative to implement an ordinance restricting backyard chickens that hasn’t been enforced since it was enacted in the 1970s; even though the former mayor has chickens! That’s more than a little ironic considering that gardens are illegal because there is no law to allow them.
At the latest meeting, this same council began discussing restrictions on food trucks. While it is reasonable to require permits so food trucks are taxed competitively with local brick and mortar restaurants, some want to restrict access based on the number of food trucks they believe the community needs instead of letting the market and the citizens decide which and how many food trucks can support economically.
The pattern of this council is increasingly restrictive and intrusive to individual rights.
At 6:45pm on Tuesday, June 13th there will be a public hearing on the gardening ordinance prior to the second reading to the City Council who will then vote on the recommendation. The second reading of the chicken ordinance will be the following week (June 20th).
We are asking all liberty minded people to join us at this meeting in a show of support. The vote is expected to be close and a strong show of interest might make a difference. It is also important to note that three council seats are up for election this fall with two liberty minded Independent candidates looking to change the way the Columbiana City Council views the world.
Let’s show Columbiana that we are watching! Join us in this beautiful small town on June 13th.