The Knox County Commissioners may take a second look at their Invasive Species Ordinance.
Will Drews, the county’s natural resource specialist and the enforcement officer for the county’s relatively new Invasive Species Ordinance, went before the commissioners on Tuesday during their regular meeting in an effort to secure an appointment to the empty fifth seat on the Invasive Species Board.
But the commissioners opted to instead hit pause, wanting to first talk to Drews’ preferred appointment — Denise Eagle — and possibly even take a second look at the ordinance itself.
Commissioner Trent Hinkle, for instance, took issue with local businesses being prohibited from selling invasive species — there are 64 prohibited plants, grasses, trees and shrubs in the county ordinance — to customers living outside Knox County.
“I don’t know that we intended the ordinance to go that far,” Hinkle ventured.
Hinkle saw no reason why local businesses couldn’t place orders of invasive species for clients living outside the county. He, too, worried that local landscape companies would lose out on potential business.
“Say a homeowner starts calling landscapers for quotes. Say he wants specific plants, some of those happen to be invasive,” Hinkle said.
“He may end up going with a competing landscaper in a different county.”
Drews, however, claims that doesn’t happen as often as local businesses say it does.
“And, generally, people don’t ask for specific plants when they ask for a landscape design,” Drews told the commissioners. “So, really, that’s up to the discretion of the landscape designer.”
A new state law now prohibits the sale of several invasive species of plants, grasses, trees and shrubs, although Knox County’s ordinance is more comprehensive.
Drews argued that the county should be doing all it can to prevent the sale of invasive species everywhere, perhaps especially in nearby counties; he discouraged them from taking the ordinance back up and, possibly, allowing businesses here to sell invasive species to residents living in neighboring counties.
“We really don’t want that,” Drews said. “Even if they are planted in adjacent counties, they will end up here again.”
Even still, Hinkle seemed committed to revisiting the ordinance.
“I just don’t see how we can force our ordinance on adjoining counties,” he said.
“We should pull it and review it,” agreed commission president Kellie Streeter. “We knew things would come along that needed to be addressed.
“So that’s what we should do.”
But Ray Chattin, a volunteer with the Knox County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, also urged the commissioners to proceed with caution.
“The ordinance is meant to stop any new invasive species from polluting,” he said. “That’s a good reason for them not to go anywhere.
“Please bear that in mind as you tweak the ordinance. It’s important that we limit damage as much as we an with new plants.”
Chattin, too, said with as many as 70 new CISMA organizations in the works across the state, more invasive species ordinances are possible, if not likely.
Drews also reported to the commissioners Tuesday morning that the work of the Invasive Species Board — its members are appointed by the commissioners — is going well.
This season alone, he said, they’ve prevented the sale of 100 winter creeper plants, one of the most invasive and dangerous to native species.
And the board has only had to meet once, he said, to deal with a violator, and that was just last week.
They opted for “leniency,” Drews said, in that the local business, Premier Landscape and Design, was not fined. Instead, the county confiscated the invasive species when they were found during a re-inspection and charged Premier a disposal fee.
In every other case, Drews told the commissioners, issues found during inspections have been easily resolved.
And the big box retailers, which were a point of concern for county officials when the ordinance was passed last year, have been quick to comply, Drews said.
“I’ve had no complaints from them,” he said. “They’ve been some of the easiest to work with.”