Friday, April 5, 2013

Best Foot Forward

There’s a new initiative in the garden world to get rid of lawn grass in front of homes and installing ornamental gardens.  It’s pretty darn exciting to see some of the completed front yards being shown on line.  We even have a few in this area.

A landscaped front yard isn’t a new thing.  Envision the European cottage gardens & most have lush front yards.  Examples are prolific in old masters’ paintings, courtyards and castles.

Somewhere in the development of what is considered beautiful, expanses of lawn or turf grass became the norm.  With that idea, massive chemical applications and grooming devices were needed.  As our climate needs and knowledge changes, many are looking for alternatives and what’s old is new again.

Front yard plantings should enhance your home and the street scene.  Simply not mowing your grass isn’t recommended and it could be a misdemeanor in your town.

Should you jump in and bulldoze the entire street side of your property?  That would be jumping into the kettle out of the fire.  This is a huge subject and not just because it requires work.  Today I’ll talk about the legalities. 

We all have a friend name JULIE and this is the time to give her a call.  JULIE is a free underground utility locating service.  You can call 811 or 1-800-892-0123 and it is answered 24/7.  They don’t locate 24/7 so plan your request for locates in advance.  What do they locate you ask?  Underground electric, gas, water, drains & sewer.  Digging into one of these can be costly to you in addition to deadly.  Go to their on-line page for instructions.

Once you know where not to dig, look up.  Do you have electric, telephone or cable lines coming into your home overhead?  Don’t hit them with big equipment, ladders, or scaffolding.  Did I mention deadly? 

If you live in a town with ordinances or a housing development with a HOA (Homeowner’s Association) you’ll have to tailor your design to stay within those rules.  The old saying, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.” is foolish if you’re investing money in landscaping.  Plus, they can either make you remove the offending items or they can remove and charge you. 

Typically, when you buy a home governed by an HOA, you have signed a legal document with the purchase including the terms of that HOA. 

The larger the city, the more ordinances and the more detailed they become.  Larger cities have their ordinances on line and others you must request a copy.  Get a copy BEFORE you start.

I contacted Kewanee, Galva and Bishop Hill since I thought it covered different sized towns and also the historic district issues.  Most are common sense and most apply to the parking strip (that area between the street curb and sidewalk or sometimes called the Right-of-Way (ROA).)

Most ordinances refer to “right-of-way” and a little education works here too.  Cities and utilities most often have a legal right to use that portion of land for their specific purposes.  Most of these areas have underground water, sewers, storm drains, and gas.  Some have underground or overhead electric lines and transformers, cable, and telephone lines.  When you bought the property, you assumed the legal right-of-way agreement in place on that property.  These right-of-way portions can be in the parking strip, a certain number of feet from the middle of the road into your property, in an alleyway, at the back of some properties and other areas where specific under or above ground equipment is needed to serve you and your neighbors.

Your city may have other guides, but, here are a few general rules for Right-of-Ways or front yards: 

·         Plant no tree or bush that will get over 20-30 feet tall in the ROW. 

·         Don’t plant poplars, willows, boxelder, silver maple, tree-of-heaven, elms or evergreens in ROW.

·         Don’t plant a tree closer than 50 foot to another tree.

·         Don’t plant landscaping where it will block sight coming/going from your driveway.

·         Don’t plant trees & bushes within 35 foot of an intersection.  (Corner lot issue)

·         Don’t put ornamentals, trees or bushes closer than 10 foot to a fireplug.

·         Nothing can be poisonous to humans or animals.

·         Most require permission to lay cement or other hardscapes in the ROW.

·         No statues, flagpoles, seating, ornamentation or art in ROW.

·         Nothing planted that can obstruct public walkways, streets, and alleys.

·         You can’t change the grading by digging, planting, pavers, edging, and etc. in ROW.

·         Nothing in your front yard and ROW can be deemed inappropriate for the general public (including minors) to view.

·         If you plant on a ROW and they need access, they won’t reimburse for your plant loss.  

·         Check to make sure you don’t have to obtain a permit to plant on a ROW.

 Not too many ordinances dictate what you can have in your own front yard, other than the ROW.  Common sense is important here.  You don’t really have the same freedom in your front yard as you do in what is termed “the privacy of your backyard.” 

AND last but not least realize gardening tastes vary widely even among neighbors and friends.  What I consider a beautiful expression of cottage gardening and Eco friendly environmental development might be considered trashy by the next guy. 

No comments:

Post a Comment