About a dozen people who showed up Oct. 23, to hear an appeal of a decision by Wyoming’s city zoning official, don’t even live in the affected neighborhood and probably rarely even view the property that was the subject of the hearing. The larger issue for them was clearly land use. Property owners in Wyoming were getting in on the front end of this issue. Fred Weck, Wyoming’s zoning administrator, in early October denied a citizen complaint about a property on Forli Avenue. Complainants Diane and John Eaton, said the unkempt appearance of their neighbor’s parcel was inviting rats. They said turf had been established on this site previously and felt that city ordinances require turf to be maintained once established. Weck explained that Wyoming city ordinances also specifically recognize the difference between noxious weeds and unsafe conditions, and allowances are made for “natural” vegetative growth on properties. The parcel in question also exceeds one acre which is the size cited in most of the nuisance ordinances.
Larger parcels have different standards. Weck had determined that Mary and Dallas Oman are not doing anything illegal in their low maintenance approach to lawn management. Weck’s determination was appealed by the Eatons, so Wyoming convened a five-member appeals group to hold the appeal hearing. Several people stood during the hearing last week to declare that they have three or four acre lots, and parts of their property aren’t manicured. They were advocating the right to allow larger lots some natural space. In addition, several people who are also neighbors of the Oman’s said they have “no problem” and appreciate the birds, etc. the yard attracts. Diane Eaton maintained that, “When you buy a home in the city limits you don’t expect this...would you (she asked the review panel) want this in your neighborhood?” The Eatons said the general appearance of the Oman parcel decreases their property values, and is a fire hazard. One of the review panel appointees, Judy Coughlin is a former township resident. She was on the planning commission assisting when city-township ordinances were blended a few years ago. Coughlin was joined on the panel by residents Marilyn Wolhaupter and Mark Lobermeier and councilmen Roger Elmore and Steve Zerwas. Coughlin explained that the city itself endorses natural vegetation providing native plantings inside city parklands. The Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2009 states “...the city will work to judiciously reduce the amount of park area devoted to mowed turf and introduce in its place plant species that require less maintenance, provide habitat....and that improve the quality of run-off.” She added that the blended ordinances tried “to account for larger parcels” that had been in the township, along with recognizing the growing trend for un-mowed landscaping.
Couglin said during her site visit she identified many perennial garden plants but observed no “weeds.” Bob Selby, a homeowner across the street from the Oman parcel stated, “There is not a prettier stretch of property....in my opinion this is a frivolous action.” Mary Oman reported that she and her husband began a process of introducing a more natural landscape in 1998. There have been no complaints until now. The Eatons disputed this and said lack of maintenance is a new issue and nuisance issues are recent. In the end the review panel voted 5-0 to uphold Weck’s decision that there is no reason to cite the Omans.