Property owners who build new residences in Bexley now will be required to submit a landscaping plan for approval from the city's Tree and Public Gardens Commission.

In a 4-3 vote Oct. 23, Bexley City Council approved Ordinance No. 18-18, which requires the city's Tree and Public Gardens Commission to review plans for any proposed projects involving the construction of a primary building or structure.

The purpose is to subject landscaping to a similar review process that building materials undergo when new construction takes place, said Councilman Tim Madison, chairman of council's Zoning, Development and Judiciary Committee, who introduced the ordinance.

"Some of the new construction that has occurred has just butchered trees and landscaping," Madison said. "I think that if someone's going to build a house in Bexley, from my perspective, the landscaping is as important as the color of tiles or the type of (building) materials."

Madison voted for the ordinance, along with council members Mary Gottesman, Steve Keyes and Troy Markham. Monique Lampke, Richard Sharp and council President Lori Ann Feibel voted against it.

Feibel said she is concerned the ordinance could place undue burden on property owners who build new houses, especially those who may not be able to afford landscaping plans.

"I just worry about our citizens who, it's all they can do to afford a house and perhaps they would like to wait to have a professional landscaping plan done, because I think they're expensive," Feibel said.

Sharp proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would have required property owners to submit a landscaping plan to the city only when construction involves removing mature trees or vegetation that shields adjacent properties. Sharp's amendment was rejected in a 4-3 vote, with Gottesman, Keyes, Madison and Markham voting against it.

Sharp said he believes the ordinance is unnecessary.

"I just think it's an extra layer of burden," he said. "Most of the people that do spend large amounts of money want their properties to look nice. ... To say that the consultants they hire aren't as qualified as our tree commission is elitist."

Markham, who serves as council's liaison to the Tree and Public Gardens Commission, said the commission can work with property owners to ensure landscaping plans are feasible and cost-effective. That commission voted 8-0 Sept. 19 in favor of the ordinance.

"They're very thoughtful," Markham said of the commission's members. "They have a good idea of what can be done, what can't be done. They have a good idea of cost."

Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler noted the ordinance simplify codifies the authority the city's Board of Zoning and Planning and the Architectural Review Board already have to refer landscaping plans to the Tree and Public Gardens Commission.

The city has "an ability, when somebody's investing a substantial amount of money into a new build project... to also review the landscape piece of it," Kessler said.

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