BY BOB ANDERSON
Florida Parishes bureau
June 14, 2012
DENHAM SPRINGS — The City Council strengthened its landscaping ordinance Tuesday despite a threat from the audience to seek recall elections for any council members who voted for the move.
Participants in a public hearing expressed passionate feelings for and against the ordinance.
Most of the comments focused not on the proposed changes, but on a portion of the existing ordinance that gives the city the power to revoke the certificate of occupancy of businesses that “fail to maintain landscaping in accordance with approved landscape plans.”
While the city never has had to resort to such an action, the city did recently use the threat on a new business that wasn’t complying, Mayor Jimmy Durbin said.
He said it’s a big stick that works with national companies.
Opponents said the ordinance provides too much power for the city to wield, while proponents said the ordinance has helped to transform the city into an attractive municipality.
Barbara Cansler warned the council that opponents are ready to try to recall council members who vote for “this outrageous ordinance.”
She said she doesn’t think the city should have the power to revoke the certificate of occupancy of a business that doesn’t maintain its landscaping.
She said that if she were going to open a business, she would do it “where there is less red tape.”
Earline Sceroler, of the Denham Springs Garden Club, said there was a time when the city was ugly, but that has changed.
“The city is looking so much better,” she said. “Please don’t water down what we have put in place. Keep the ordinance in place to keep a beautiful city.”
Betty Amacker, president of the Garden Club, said the city is booming and doesn’t need businesses that won’t comply with the ordinance.
Dr. Doug Strickland said he’s concerned about how a future administration might use the ordinance.
He said he wanted to know whether, if he had a dead bush, a future administration would try to shut him down.
Sceroler replied it doesn’t cost much to replace a bush.
Councilman Arthur Perkins asked how the city would enforce its ordinance if it didn’t have a penalty.
Councilman John Wascom, who cast the lone vote against the proposal, suggested that the city give incentives, such as a cut in water rates, to companies that comply with landscape plans rather than taking action against them if they don’t comply.
Councilwoman Annie Fugler said she has mixed feelings, but said the ordinance hasn’t resulted in any businesses being shut down.
She said landscaping is important to a city and places that have nothing but ugly, block buildings risk turning into ghettoes.
Lori Lamm-Williams and Chris Davis joined Perkins and Fugler in voting for the proposal.
The proposal adds to the ordinance a requirement that 5 percent of small developments and 10 percent of large developments must be devoted to green space.
It says green space can include trees, shrubs, hedges, grasses, vines, ground cover, bark or mulch.