A community is only as good as the people who choose to participate in it.
It’s only as strong as the people who strive to make it better.
We were encouraged at Monday night’s city council meeting as Will Drews, the county’s natural resource specialist, came armed both with the infectious energy for which he is so well known as well as carefully organized packets of information for each council member to help make his case.
He was upset — and we think rightfully so — that amendments to the city’s landscape ordinance, amendments that were later unanimously approved by council members, removed language that would have encouraged business owners to plant native species of plants, trees and shrubs as they look to develop here.
The amendments, too, took away a non-voting, advisory seat on the Tree Board — whose members also serve as the Landscape Review Committee — appointed to the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District, a seat Drews currently holds.
Councilman Ryan Lough, with help from city engineer John Sprague and members of the Tree Board, stripped back the existing landscape ordinance in an effort to make it easier for developers to understand and follow all while ensuring the aesthetic standards council members want in terms of green space.
And we can certainly get on board with that.
There have been too many retailers locate here in recent years that haven’t met any green space standards at all, creating unsightly oceans of concrete and asphalt.
So we support the council in its efforts to create a landscape ordinance that is, perhaps, more lenient — more enforceable — if the goal is to encourage compliance.
But we disagree in the council’s rush to a decision on the matter. We see no reason why, given the number of people who so thoughtfully and respectfully spoke to council members and shared their thoughts, that a third reading couldn’t have been postponed.
We think more heed should have been given to their concerns.
Sure, a county ordinance prohibits the sale of invasive species here; businesses can’t buy them anyway.
And while the city’s ordinance does follow the county’s legislation, why not, in the spirit of cooperation, extend an olive branch to the SWCD, let them keep their seat on the Tree Board, thereby acknowledging all the hard work they’ve done in recent years to undo the damage invasive species have done.
One such commenter on Monday night said the SWCD and volunteers with the the county’s Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area have put in more than 700 hours removing invasive species from area woodlands.
Read that again: 700 hours of work.
So what’s the harm in including a paragraph in a piece of legislation that encourages businesses to at least consider using native species of trees, shrubs and plants in their landscape projects?
We think none.
City officials have said repeatedly that they want more community involvement. They want their constituents to participate in local government.
Yet here was a group of people who did just that, and they didn’t come with poor attitudes and pitch forks, as many so often do.
They came with grace. They came with compassion. They came with logic.
They came with a desire to help.
And we think it would have behooved the council — and the community as a whole — to take two weeks to think their arguments over before making a final decision.