The Janesville City Council unanimously approved a revised natural landscaping ordinance Tuesday night, the third sustainability measure to gain council approval this year.
The newest ordinance gives residents more flexibility to cultivate vegetable gardens or other plants that aren’t turf grass in all parts of their properties. Previously, natural plantings were limited to 10% of a person’s lot size, and vegetable gardens were not allowed in front and corner side yards.
Now, there is no land size restriction and front and side yard gardens are allowed if the plants do not exceed 30 inches in height, which helps maintain visibility to the road.
Corn is not permitted under the ordinance, and gardens must be at least 2 feet away from all property lines.
A provision in an earlier draft of the ordinance that required a formal site plan review by the city for any natural landscape gardens was also scrapped.
The revisions passed 6-0. Paul Williams was absent.
The public hearing before the final vote was quick and supportive. Two residents spoke in favor of the changes: One woman said current policy was too restrictive and a man said natural gardens will help birds and insects.
Sustainable Janesville Committee member Wes Enterline said the revised policy would give residents more options in their gardens and yards.
While there was no opposition to the ordinance Tuesday night, the measure was a long time in the making. Committee members made their first pitch in June 2016 and presented formal amendments to the plan commission in 2017.
The commission gave the proposed changes back to the committee for further edits. The sustainability committee continued working on the ordinance since then and earned unanimous plan commission approval earlier this month.
Council member Tom Wolfe said Tuesday that the committee’s new version of the policy was simpler than its previous iteration.
Matt Robinson, a city environmental technician, said violations will be handled on a complaint basis. Janesville uses the same process for overgrown lawns, which would not qualify as natural landscaping.
Enterline said the committee would partner with local businesses such as K&W Greenery to ensure residents comply with the ordinance.
This is the third ordinance the sustainability committee has helped enact this year. The council passed the other two despite minor disagreements.
In January, the council approved a composting ordinance by a vote of 5-2. Williams and then-council member Jens Jorgensen said they supported the idea but questioned if the ordinance as written would be effective.
In April, the council legalized backyard beekeeping 5-2, with Williams and Jorgensen again opposing. The measure survived an initial effort by Jorgensen to reject the ordinance before passing with minor amendments.