The Paonia Town Council meeting on Aug. 13 went from 7 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Before the council meeting, there was an hour-long work session on recreational marijuana.
There were 11 items on the agenda before the reports from the mayor, public works, the police and committees.
The first contentious item on the agenda concerned the hedge on the property at 206 Rio Grande. The property is owned by Paonia trustee Brian Ayers who was asking for a variance.
The hedge is encroaching on the public sidewalk, causing people to walk in the street. The height of the hedge exceeds town regulations.
Mayor Neal Schwieterman provided background. The town had received numerous letters in support of the hedge. One letter writer said how much they admired the property "as one of the most attractive and best maintained in town." Another said the height of the hedge was not a problem, but did want unobstructed use of the sidewalk. Another said the town should allow the hedge to grow as high as Brian Ayers needs it for a sense of privacy.
A joint letter from residents was submitted to the Paonia Planning and Zoning Commission. It stated that the hedge had been there for 50 years and is therefore grandfathered in. The height of the hedge affords privacy, sound absorbing qualities and protection from dust. The landscape is tidy and they would not want to see it changed. They suggested the hedge be trimmed off the sidewalk over a three-year period. The first pruning would have to be done next spring.
Ayers offered to widen the area for the sidewalk.
Mayor Schwieterman then read the report from the building official, Chad Gartman. He noted the hedge is in violation of town regulations. It encroaches on a public right of way and is taller than four feet. Hedges on a corner lot are not to be higher than 42 inches.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a variance after two meetings in July.
Ayers purchased the property in 1999 and the hedge was there "in its current size and shape." Ayers would widen the sidewalk with concrete or pavers.
Neal Schwieterman offered a motion at the planning meeting to grandfather the eight-foot height of the hedge and to make the sidewalk ADA-compliant.
Paul Douglas said at the commission and at the council meetings that a variance should not be allowed. Aesthetics should not be an issue, nor should the cost of coming into compliance. At the council meeting, Douglas said there needed to be a level playing field and to allow the trustee a variance would be a double standard.
Trustee Larry Wissbeck stated a council can't write a law to cover every contingency, and that variances are therefore needed to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Trustee Ross King disagreed, saying variances encourage people to not conform to the land use regulations. King said Ayers had not provided the council with a firm commitment on resolving the issue.
Ayers said he was asking for height to be grandfathered in, and for the council to decide if the hedge had to be trimmed or the sidewalk widened.
Amber Kleinman moved to grandfather in the height of the hedge and allow Ayers three years to come into compliance by trimming the hedge or making the sidewalk ADA compliant. It was approved by a split vote, three to one, with King opposed.
A person objected and said there needed to be a written commitment from Ayers. Trustee Eric Goold said the motion and minutes were an official written statement of the town's decision. Nothing more was required.
Ayers recused himself from the vote.blog comments powered by Disqus