Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

County creating landscape manual

The development of a manual to make Washington County even more attractive and environmentally sound through the requirement of new landscaping and the preservation of existing landscaping has come as a surprise to many county officials.
During the Oct. 24 meeting of Jonesborough’s Tree and Townscape Board, engineer Todd Wood referred to the creation of the document as “a big leap” for the county.
A draft of the Washington County Landscape Manual was distributed to town committee members along with portions of the town’s landscaping manual for perusal.
Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said he had no knowledge a manual was even being developed and that such a document, while common for a city, is rare for a county.
Calls to the Sullivan County Planning and Codes Department, the Carter County Planning Office and the Unicoi County Mayor’s Office confirmed none of the three surrounding counties has a landscape manual.
Wood said he began working with Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford during the summer and used the manual he developed for the City of Johnson City as a base for the county’s document.
Rutherford said Wood is being paid to do the work from the stormwater management budget, and the manual is part of zoning regulations.
“We had various commissioners meet to tell us what they like about the ordinance,” he said.
A recommendation from the Washington County Regional Planning Commission could be considered by the county commission at the first of 2013, he added.
The document will have to be considered by the Planning Commission first though, and several members didn’t even know the project was under way.
Commissioner Ken Lyon had no information, and Commissioners George “Skip” Oldham and Gearld Sparks thought the issues being addressed had something to do with overgrown weeds and a lack of mowing on county-owned properties.
Troy Ebbert, of the Zoning Office, said only a subcommittee of the Planning Commission has been involved so far, though their work is done at this point and the draft is ready to be given to the full planning commission for review.
Rutherford said a series of meetings was held on Wednesdays during which all members could have offered input. “If they didn’t come, they’ll have to play catch up,” he said.
According to Rutherford, the document is more of a concept than a mandate. Yet, the first page of the draft states “All new development, excluding active agriculture uses and the individual development of one single-family or two-family detached dwelling unit, shall comply with this landscape manual.”
The manual also is applicable for redevelopment sites that include new stand alone building(s), parking, vehicular storage or display areas, or access drive areas being created.
For redevelopment sites that involve an expansion of an existing building, “the landscape manual is applicable when the additional gross floor area exceeds 25 percent of the existing gross floor area or any change of use which results in the property becoming a higher impact use, as determined by the buffering section of this manual.”
The draft document also notes, “any violations of the terms of this Landscape Manual shall be a violation of the zoning resolution, and shall be subject to the penalties for violations established in the zoning resolution.”
Commissioner Alpha Bridger, a member of the subcommittee, said one of the goals is to make the buffers and shrubbery in the county more attractive and long-lasting.
The manual includes sections on tree preservation; tree protection during construction; size, spacing and location requirements for trees; plant quality standards; and maintenance. Additional specifications are included for frontage landscape yards and transitional yards.
“We are trying to do due diligence by going through the zoning regulations one at a time,” she said. “Hopefully, we will be more aware so we can give advice to builders.”