Clark Lake residents and the chair of the Columbia Township Planning Commission expressed opposition to a proposed ordinance that would limit what you can have in your yard.  Watch the video below to see why they told the Columbia Township trustees that section 20.11 or ROLA must not remain part of the ordinance package that will soon become law.


Supervisor Bob Elrod commented that the board is reconsidering its stance on the ordinance. Earlier the board had decided to include it in the ordinance package prepared by the Columbia Township Planning Commission.  For several years, the commission has worked on a rewrite of zoning ordinances to bring them into line with current state law. The board of trustees added restrictions to 20.11 that went beyond what the planning commission had proposed.  The purpose of the changes was to ensure you do not obstruct your neighbor’s right and left views, as well as straight ahead.  It would 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 language does not specifically restrict plantings such as trees and shrubs, it doesn’t exclude them either.

When adding something to your outdoor living space, you could 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 expense.

The board of trustees will vote on the entire ordinance package on October 29.  As noted above, the board is reconsidering if the unpopular 20.11 section will be included.

For reference, here is the 20.11 section of the ordinance.