Columbiana officials shut down man’s public garden, saying it doesn’t follow code

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Members of Columbiana's planning commission said they contacted John Hippley several times about the garden with no response

COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – In Columbiana County, a man has been working for years, creating a public botanical garden. The only problem is, it doesn’t fall in compliance with the city’s zoning codes.

The Gardens at Hippley Village sits off of Stanton Avenue and features seven different garden themes.

Owner John Hippley even has a website inviting the public to visit his backyard.

Members of Columbiana’s planning commission said they contacted Hippley several times about the garden and the traffic it’s brought to the area.

Hippley never attended commission meetings, prompting a letter telling him he could be prosecuted if he isn’t up to code by the end of the month.

The letter reads:

Dear Mr. Hippley:

As you may remember, Lance Williard spoke to you in the fall with regard to the operation of Hippley Gardens. Our hope at such time was that you would accept the invitation to attend the December Planning Commission meeting. Unfortunately, the date of such meeting has now come and gone.

Accordingly, I have no option but to advise you that you are now and have been in violation of certain Sections of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Columbiana. Such violations are based upon the fact that Hippley Gardens constitutes a use of property that is not specifically permitted within an R-2 District. Since the property upon which Hippley Gardens sits is within an R-2 District, Hippley Gardens as it now exists is not a permitted use. Specifically, such use violates the following Sections: Code Section 1272.02 and Code Section 1260.05. The former of these provides for “permitted” uses within an R-2 District and does not provide for the operation of what amounts to a public park. The latter of these Sections provides that if a particular use, i.e. public park, is not specifically permitted, then in fact it is prohibited.

You should also be aware, that violation of any of the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance, which would include the above-listed Sections, can lead to the penalties as set forth within Code Sections 1262.22 and 1262.99. The latter of these two Sections provides for fines and other penalties; and the former provides for equitable remedies, including, but not limited to, injunction.

Since you are in violation of such Sections, as above-listed, and since you have not availed yourself of the invitation, above mentioned, I have no choice but to inform you that the City will expect you to come into compliance with the above-cited Code Sections by January 31, 2020. If you do not do so, by such date, then the City will seek redress for these violations, with such redress to include resort to Section 1262.99, providing as follows:

Whoever violates or fails to comply with …is guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than Two Hundred Fifty Dollars, ($250.00), or imprisoned not more than thirty (30) days or both, for each offense. A separate offense shall be deemed committed each day during or on which a violation or noncompliance occurs or continues.

For your reference, I have attached copies of all of the Code Sections cited herein. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned.

Mark A. Hutson, Municipal Attorney.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, members asked Hippley to work with them to find a way to comply with their zoning codes as long as certain conditions are met.

“What we look at is: can it fit within our zoning? And the answer is yes. If we all work together for the conditional permitted use which requires conditional zoning certificate and it’s basically a quasi-public recreational area,” Atty. Hutson said.

“I think you were trying to do something good that got so good it blew up but I would take that as a compliment that what you did, people love,” said Columbiana Mayor Bryan Blakeman.

“Let’s all think about this and we’ll figure this all out, maybe,” Hippley said.

Hippley now has to meet with the city manager to come up with a plan on how to come into compliance and present it to the planning commission within the next 45 to 60 days.

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