Columbia Township has proposed a new ordinance that governs residential outdoor living areas or ROLA. Why is this relevant to property owners? This new law, if passed, will significantly change what you can have in your yard now and in the future.
The purpose of this ordinance is to ensure you do not obstruct your neighbor’s right and left views, as well as straight ahead. It impacts both lakefront and non-lakefront properties, and is specifically targeted at “back yards.” (To the Township your back yard abuts the lake, and your front yard faces the street).
What could be affected? Possibilities include decks, fire pits, grills, and retaining walls. Although the ordinance does not specifically name plantings (trees and bushes), some at the Township believe the ordinance regulates them. For example, if you plant a 6-foot maple tree, it could grow and obstruct a neighbor’s right or left view from their property.
When adding something to your outdoor living space, expect the following.
- You will be required to submit a complete topographical drawing of the entire property (includes elevations). Most people will find they will have to hire an architect or engineer to create the necessary drawings. It must show that there is nothing blocking the view of a neighbor 18 inches tall in some areas, and 48 inches in other areas (see illustration that accompanies the ordinance).
- You will be required to buy a permit and be inspected by the Township, both before and after.
- The cost of hiring an architect or engineer could reach several hundred, possibly thousands of dollars. Additionally, there are the costs of permits. If the inspector doesn’t pass it, re-dos could add to the the expense.
- There are no provisions for variances.
As you read the ordinance, you are likely to find the language difficult. While the intent of this ordinance seems simple, the implications are far reaching.
Over the last few years, the Columbia Township Planning Commission has met regularly and spent countless hours eliminating outdated ordinances and bringing the remainder into line with state requirements. This rewrite has been forwarded to be voted upon by the Township board. The ROLA is not the product of the Planning Commission, but rather a recent add-on by the Township board. Mike McKay, who is on the Planning Commission, has either built or remodeled over 100 properties at Clark Lake. According to Mike, this new ordinance would create serious problems both for existing properties and for changes you want to make in the future.
Is there lighting ordinance to deal with trespass lighting? Many people on the lake have spot lights that shine brightly and obstruct navigation on the lake. They also make looking at the stars impossible. Some people want the night sky to look like a Wal-Mart parking lot
Sounds like a recall election for those voting for this. Reminds me of sewers.
What are people thinking. That is outrageous. Have all of you gotten so high mighty that your going to make laws about what people can have in their yard? I am ashamed, that is not the Clarklake I was born and raised. What happened to neighborly love, kindness and respect. Shame on all of you ?
Please tell me this is a joke. Also is Mr Fred Sibley being serious about lighting and looking at stars? If you want to see the lake you should buy lakefront property. I see many a lawsuits in the future against Columbia TWp. #PowerHungry
Although not the issue in this article I can see why Mr Sibleh brought it up. Lighting at night can be considered light pollution and detrimental to many nocturnal species because it disorients them. I run frequently before the sun rises and thankfully think that this isn’t too big of an issue around our lake. Just something to consider and keep in mind. I understand needing to weigh the safety of your property to environmental factors but some lighting is better than others for the environment. 🙂
I do not support this ordinance. It MUST NOT go into effect.
The article mentions that the Township regards the front of the house faces the road, however at Clark Lake the front of the house faces the lake.
You township guys really should move on from this one. If there are perceived ‘nuisances ‘ they should be settled elsewhere, not mandated by you up front. I know the permits sound good to you though. It’s always about the money.
I support lakefront neighbors working out such issues on their own.