As we understand it, the goal of the city's landscape ordinance is to improve the “curb appeal” of municipal streets by requiring commercial properties to add some type of green space to the character of their sites.
This is a noble goal.
Accomplishing it involves either requiring or encouraging those commercial properties to come up with an appropriate landscaping plan.
We lean more toward the latter — encouragement — but realize that greater success in accomplishing the goal of more green space probably lies with the former, in having an ordinance requiring a plan and its implementation.
Whether as it's currently written the ordinance is too strict we can't say; two years ago, those put in charge of enforcing it didn't think so, though some appear now to have changed their minds.
We can't say because, for whatever the reason(s), the city has been lax in its enforcement of the ordinance — so to say it's been too strict or not strict enough is moot.
The mayor says whether the ordinance is revised or not, what's on the books will be enforced moving forward.
And that's good.
If there are to be regulations, they must be enforced, and enforced fairly.
There are some in the community who would like to see all such ordinances, requiring but a minimal intrusion into the owner's use of private property, torn from the books.
Others would rather see even tougher regulations, to force property owners to do “what's best to make the city attractive” to new residents as well as increased investment.
Extreme views, either on the sanctity of property rights or the needs of the community, make for a lot of noise but not much progress.
The changes proposed by council member Ryan Lough seem marginal — that is, they relax some of the requirements rather than eliminate them.
And not all the changes Lough has proposed would reduce green space; he expanded the requirement for “islands” in parking lots from 200 to 250 square feet.
Again, the goal is more green space where green space is needed.
Whether it's nine trees per acre or five, whether it's a requirement for three additional “medium-size trees” or just two, the important point is that some number of trees are being required, that green space is being included in commercial development.