Homeowners speak out on riparian rules

Zach Brombacher, 62, says he's already up to his ears in city regulations and is concerned about the aftermath if the proposed Water Resource Protection Zone ordinances are approved.

Hamilton Creek runs through property Brombacher owns above and below Siskiyou Boulevard off of Tolman Creek Road, and workers use Weed Eaters and mower attachments every Friday to keep the weeds down in the creek area.

"My attitude is that I wish they wouldn't put any restrictions on my property or how I maintain it," he said. "It's my property and I pay the taxes. I like the frontage of my property looking neat and I have to use a weed whacker in order to do that."

Brombacher and several other property owners who would be affected by the proposed riparian ordinances turned out at Tuesday evening's Planning Commission meeting to voice concerns regarding property rights, restrictions on plantings and possible loss of property.

The planning department revised the first draft it presented in April to address some of those concerns. The first draft didn't allow any "power assisted equipment" in the riparian zone; however, planning staff proposed allowing chainsaws and Weed Eaters in the buffer area above banks, but not on bank slopes.

Planning Commissioner Melanie Mindlin told planning staff she was concerned that if home and business owners were restricted from using hand-held equipment, they might resort to herbicides on the sides of stream banks.

Graham Sheldon, who owns Ashland Creek Inn, expressed concerns at the April meeting that he might not be able to rebuild his business in the event of a natural disaster.

Community Development Director Bill Molnar and Planning Manager Maria Harris told the commission that one option would be to allow the rebuilding of legally established residences and commercial buildings in a flood plain.

"They would have to stay within the original envelope. The envelope could not be expanded," said Harris.

Sheldon asked the commission Tuesday if that exemption would also include the decks that overlook the creek.

Harris proposed that accessory structures such as decks, outbuildings and patios could require approval from the planning commission.

Mindlin pointed out that the planning commission looks at criteria when making decisions and asked planning staff what the criteria would be.

"We're looking to you for some of that guidance for discussion," Molar said.

Commission Chair John Stromberg said he thought the ordinance proposals were important work, "but I think it's going to take us a while to get this right."

Planning staff were very open to suggestions from the public.

Rick Landt, who lives near Ashland Creek, wanted the proposed ordinance section that restricts plantings to "native plants" to be expanded to plants that do well in riparian areas.

Molnar said the Flood of 1997 was a perfect example of indicating how native plants did a better job of erosion control than non-native species.

He said, "The primary purpose is to protect the plant's function and we are open to other plants if they'll serve the purpose."

Commissioner Michael Dawkins told planning staff that he'd like to see a comprehensive list of plants that do well in the areas riparian corridors.

Ashland resident Rick Lucas told the commission that he wants to see education guidelines rather than ordinances to help make Ashland streams healthy, adding that ordinance restrictions might disengage people from their responsibility rather than encouraging them to become stewards of the streams.

Molnar said this morning that planning staff would make additional changes to the proposed ordinance based on comments heard Tuesday and present those changes when the commission continues the hearing on June 10.

Reach reporter at 482-3456 x226 or .

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