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Archives for September 30, 2013

Chapel Hill works to update its land use management ordinance

It took Travis Vencel 26 months to get his Bicycle Apartments project approved in Chapel Hill.

Vencel wasn’t the first developer to stumble through the traps of the town’s lengthy development process — but he might be one of the last.

Last week, the town launched an effort to update its land use management ordinance, or LUMO, for the first time in 10 years.

“The update is supposed to help folks better understand and better predict what development is and what is expected during the development process,” said Eric Feld, the town’s current development planner.

When developers want to bring their projects to Chapel Hill, they usually have to apply to rezone the land for their desired use. Those applications then pass through a public hearing, some of the town’s 19 advisory boards and the Town Council.

John Richardson, Chapel Hill’s sustainability officer, said the town needed to produce a code that would be helpful for everyone.

“Our development process will always take longer if it takes our people longer to understand what the process is,” Richardson said.

An expert comes to town

The town hired Lee Einsweiler of Code Studio, an Austin, Texas-based company that specializes in creating uncomplicated zoning and unified codes for cities and form-based codes for downtown areas.

“We plan to reorganize and modernize the document and make it more graphically oriented so the average person can make sense of it,” Einsweiler said. “We’re simplifying it without dumbing it down.”

Chapel Hill hopes to adopt a form-based code, which sets specific regulations for items like building height, signage standards and parking lot screening and shading.

The update to the document will include graphics and simple language to make it more readable and accessible for both the public and developers.

“The old document is just filled with jargon and very difficult to understand. This updated version will make everything visual,” Richardson said.

Einsweiler said he wants the update to fit the town’s new vision for Chapel Hill.

“If the vision of the town has changed, then the regulations need to change,” he said. “The idea here is to link these to the community’s vision.”

Four key areas

Council member Donna Bell said the town chose to initially focus on four areas to make the update process manageable and effective: codes applying to bed and breakfasts, signage, stormwater management and parking lot landscaping.

Under the current land use ordinance, bed and breakfasts are not allowed in town, but Feld said many surrounding areas allow them.

“Let’s explore this topic and see if we can incorporate these into the ordinance, so we can provide some regulatory framework for this type of use,” he said.

Feld said the current codes for signage are paragraphs of jargon. The proposed update will include figures that show exact dimensions and examples of potential sign ideas.

“As a planner, I do my best to make sure a sign is representing the values of Chapel Hill,” he said. “I want to make sure we are telling people what exactly we expect of them.”

The town’s update efforts will also look closely at parking lot landscaping and stormwater regulations.


Bell said the Town Council is also reorganizing its advisory boards to further help speed up the approval process.

“It started off with looking at boards around the development process and then looking at the goals of those boards,” Bell said. “Some of the boards either have an unclear charge or the charge was shared with other boards.”

Richardson, the town’s sustainability officer, said re-evaluating the boards is important to increasing efficiency.

“Anytime we update our vision, we need to re-evaluate the boards and commissions that support that vision and make sure they are aligned with those visions,” he said.

A thorough cost analysis determined it cost the town up to $600,000 per year to have and manage 19 advisory boards, Richardson said.

The advisory board portion of the approval process is often costly and lengthy for developers, who have to keep architects and attorneys on retainer while it is pending approval.

Though it was time-consuming for him, Vencel said he still appreciated town’s stringent approval process.

“It’s an in-depth process,” Vencel said. “I don’t think it is beneficial to developers, but you get a much better product at the end.”

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Experts and residents brainstorm on ways to enhance Dunkirk

DUNKIRK – Residents and community leaders filled the large meeting room at the SUNY Fredonia Incubator Center on Central Avenue in Dunkirk to talk about planning, promoting and marketing Dunkirk.

The Saturday morning gathering was coordinated by the city and members of the Academy Heights Neighborhood Association to promote the city and get new ideas on how to improve.

George Grasser, of Buffalo, brought a team of people involved in urban-planning projects.

Team members included experts in urban engineering, marketing and promoting the concept of “complete streets.”

They said that streets should be friendly for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Mayor A.J. Dolce was pleased by the turnout.

He estimated that 80 residents showed up to share ideas and participate in the walking tours with the planning group.

“I am really pleased to see so much interesting revitalizing our city,” Dolce said.

The mayor said he believes that active participation from community groups will encourage business growth and attract new residents to the city.

Grasser prefaced the walking tours by asking people to scan the neighborhoods and look for ideas to promote walking and encourage small businesses and services within short distances to residential areas. Members of the group walked around the harbor area, the First Ward and Central Avenue.

After the walking tours, the planning team members pointed out that the harbor attractions but said they are not easily found. They recommended better signs and marketing near the recreational areas along the waterfront. They also recommended promoting the areas and their attractions on social media as a way of attracting younger visitors.

City residents should form a planning group and target specific projects throughout the city, the experts said.

Also, the team members suggested landscaping along the Route 5 corridor near Central Avenue and repainting the railroad bridges in the city.

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Landscaping ideas using fall’s vibrant colors

KANSAS CITY, Mo. –  The fall season is upon us.  But how do you get your house and yard prepped for fall?  What can you do to make your landscape stand out with those vibrant fall colors?

Joe Blackshere, the manager of the Lee’s Summit Westlake Ace Hardware store, stopped by Monday’s FOX 4 Morning Show with ideas to help you fix up your landscape for the fall season.

Want even more ideas?  Fall Fest is being held on Saturday, Oct. 5 at  all Westlake Ace Hardware stores.  For more info, go to

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Sustainable Landscaping Requires Appropriate Plant Selection

Sustainable landscapes are healthy and resilient to the environmental elements of a location and will endure over the long term without substantial resources or maintenance. Sustainability is increased when the urban landscape is in harmony with local conditions.

Jim Fogarty, Melbourne landscape designer says, “Gardens should have the correct sense of place, whether it be a leafy city garden or a natural-styled native coastal garden that blends with the environment.”

The landscape designer is critical of aesthetic landscape designs that are unique and trendy, but simply don’t fit in the surrounding environment and therefore, require more resources and maintenance to upkeep.

“The key is aesthetic design that ensures the garden lasts rather than being a faddish makeover,” says Fogarty. “The word ‘sustainable’ has been overused in gardens sadly and I think the value of the motive behind the word has been diluted as a consequence.”

Native plants foster sustainability

Native plants foster sustainability

Fogarty says all gardens are good for the environment as long as designers make ethical choices when it comes to plant and material selection.

A combination of careful plant selection, good planning, soil preparation and effective irrigation will assist in the implementation of a sustainable landscape.

Other factors to consider are the use of water-wise plants, low energy consumption, avoidance of chemicals, sustainable and locally sourced materials and products as well as habitat creation.

“Trends in landscape design continue to include green walls, edible gardens and sustainable gardens,” says Fogarty. “These all have a place in landscape design but I think there will be an emphasis in the future on a greater selection of plants rather than just creating entertainment spaces.”

Built Landscapes

Built landscapes should blend with the surrounding environment

Plenty of built urban landscapes across the country use plants and practices unsuited to the arid environment. This makes them resource-depleting because they require significant water, nutrients, chemicals and energy to survive.

To achieve a successful sustainable landscape with a healthy future, urban landscapes must work with local climactic and ecological conditions.

Design for Geographic Location and Conditions

Kristen Avis

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1st Image: via BPN
2nd Image: via susancohan gardens
3rd Image: via Jim Fogarty

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Touring the fantastic Columbus gardens

Let’s Grow!
Touring the fantastic Columbus gardens

An interesting peek into one of the prettiest private gardens in Columbus, courtesy of this year’s Columbus Landscape Association Outdoor Living and Landscaping Tour (GoodSeed Nursery photo)

By Steve Boehme

We spent a recent Saturday exploring a dozen private landscapes in and around Columbus, recharging our creative batteries with lots of fresh landscape ideas. A varied assortment of projects, by some of the best landscapers in Columbus, opened to the public as the Columbus Landscape Association hosted its annual Outdoor Living and Landscaping Tour. A few readers of this column were paying attention and took advantage of the free tickets we offered several weeks ago. Ticket sales benefitted Hope Hollow, a non-profit sanctuary for cancer patients and also a stop on the tour.

So, what do the newest custom landscapes look like? This is the second time we’ve taken this tour, and we spotted some trends worth watching. Some of the homes we visited were very expensive, with landscape budgets in six figures. Others were more modest, but clearly landscaping was a big part of the quality of life in these homes and there were lots of unique ideas on display.

One thing that struck us was that the more affluent the owner, the more boxwoods, hostas, and ground cover plants dominated the landscape. One reason is that luxury homes tend to have lots of large trees and plenty of shade, so ground covers for shade are widely used in nice neighborhoods. The use of color is more tasteful, with evergreen plants as a background, for a very classy upscale effect.

We saw lots of extensive hardscaping; retaining walls, paver walks and patios (even driveways), natural stone, and water features. Slate patios, stone bridges, rock outcroppings, and sturdy privacy fences covered with vines were everywhere. City dwellers who want privacy surround themselves with large woody plants like viburnum, holly, hemlock and arborvitae. Unlike most rural and suburban landscapes, these backyards had plantings all around the edges, not just close to the foundation.

The owners of these homes have big landscape maintenance budgets, so they can afford to cram lots of plant material into small spaces and keep it clipped, pruned and sheared constantly. The landscape companies clearly aimed for “instant results” rather than spacing for the mature size of plants. We chuckled at the mass plantings of roses underneath young weeping cherry trees, lots of taxus yews, hostas in sun, grasses in shade and other obvious mistakes. Most of the landscapes were recently re-worked, so the inevitable culling and casualties haven’t happened yet.

Our favorite stop was an older home overlooking the Scioto River, with mass plantings of Hosta among stone walls originally built by the WPA many years ago. A tasteful waterfall and stream had been added, which will blend nicely into the natural setting as the stones age.

Another treasure was an intimate Japanese garden tucked in behind the Muirfield golf course. Slate pathways, a stone bridge, and yes, more hostas, were artfully arranged to disguise just how close the house was to its neighbors. We also admired a lovely stone mansion in Bexley, laced with formal borders of miniature boxwoods and carefully clipped ivy. Yes, ivy hedges as a formal border. The opposite of low maintenance, but certainly charming.

Last stop was the Learning Garden at Chadwick Arboretum on the Ohio State campus. You have a few more weeks to check out their annual cultivar trial gardens, full of new varieties being tested. There were standouts and duds. Very interesting, and certainly colorful. Well worth a stop next time you’re near the OSU campus. Go Bucks!

Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery Landscape, located at 9736 Tri-County Highway, near Winchester, Ohio. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at or call (937) 587-7021.


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Expert to give landscape tips

The Andover Garden Club will hold a membership meeting and landscape-design lecture titled “Simplifying Gardens to Fit Our Lifestyles,” Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 10 a.m. at South Church, 41 Central St., Andover.

Nationally known gardening expert and teacher Kerry Ann Mendez will provide easy-to-follow landscape downsizing strategies, recommend no-fuss plant material, and offer design tips for stunning year-round gardens that will be as close to autopilot as one can get.

Mendez is director of marketing for Faddegon’s Nursery, a premier garden center in Latham, N.Y. She is dedicated to teaching the art of low-maintenance perennial gardening and landscaping. As a garden consultant, designer, writer, teacher and lecturer, she focuses on time-saving gardening techniques and workhorse plants, as well as organic practices. She has been in numerous magazines, including Horticulture and Fine Gardening and has been a featured guest on HGTV as well as local television shows. Self-taught, with more than 25 years of experience, she is a “passionate perennialist” who enjoys mixing humor with practical information.

This event is free for members. A $10 donation is requested for guests (includes refreshments).

For information about joining the Andover Garden Club, contact AGC membership chairs Linda Carpenter (978-475-7430, and Ronnie Haarmann (978-475-4414,

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Green Thumb: 10 Popular Herbs + Tips to Grow Your Own

Have you been longing to get your hands dirty? Well, there really is no better time to start now Spring has arrived. Whether you’re playing farmer to your own veggie patch or growing your own herbs, it is immensely satisfying! You’ll be a proud parent watching them grow as you feed and water them, and you’ll save a bundle by avoiding store-bought picks that quickly die in a day or two. And because everything tastes that little bit better with herbs, there’s no reason not get started. Come on in for 10 easy-to-grow herbs and planting tips for your green thumb.

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