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‘They Strip The Land Right Down To The Dirt’: Commissioners Discuss New Buffer Regulations

By Bryce Abshier – Contact Bryce@TheVOSM.net

(Thoughts? Have your letter to the editor published here!)

During a recent Belleview City Commission meeting, the focus turned to buffers as commissioners delved into discussions on Land Development Regulations. Commissioner Ronald Livsey emphasized the importance of incorporating natural trees into the buffer zones, stating, “I would like to see, somehow added to our buffers, natural trees. I would like to see something like a 30, 35 foot natural buffer of trees in there.”

Livsey emphasized the significance of natural buffers, noting, “It seems to me that natural buffers would make it a lot quieter, less noisier, it would look nicer because those trees, let’s face it, some of them are hundreds of years old that they’re taking down.”

Livsey’s concerns may resonate with many in the community who are disheartened by widespread development. At a July, 2023 meeting of the Belleview City Commission, one local resident expressed dismay over the Autumn Glen housing development off of C-25, remarking, “It looks like Orlando now! They have totally molested the land. They’ve cut trees down that were 3, 4, or 500 years old.”

Another group deeply impacted by development with little buffering are the residents along SE 127th Place in Belleview, who watched as their rural backyard landscapes were transformed into a wasteland for the Bennah Oaks subdivision. What was once serene meadows and rural pastures will soon resemble Orlando-like urban sprawl, with two or three alternating cookie-cutter floor plans.

To address these concerns in future developments, the city commission explored potential solutions. Commissioner Ray Dwyer suggested the use of berms, stating, “The berms, I think, would be particularly effective. While we’re waiting for trees and shrubs to grow, the berms are going to help. I think the berms look better and would help alleviate noise problems right from the get-go.”

A berm, in the context of landscaping or buffer yard requirements means “a mound of earth typically used to shield, screen, and buffer undesirable views and to separate potentially incompatible land uses.”

Belleview City Attorney Fred Landt, who had clearly done his homework on the topic, highlighted the benefits and downsides of berms, pointing to a study by the state of Ohio. “They point out in that, another concern with berms is overhead power lines. If you plant trees on it, you don’t want them growing into power lines. The other thing is, you also need to restrict what vegetation is put on the berms because you don’t want to create an issue where there needs to be mowing, which would be impractical,” Landt explained. “They’re a better noise reducing solution than walls, but the number one problem is space.”

Livsey echoed his sentiments, emphasizing the need to avoid stripping properties bare. “Let’s talk examples. Bellehaven stripped the property. The car washes stripped the property. They left nothing. And now we have a little bush about this big for a buffer. That’s what I’m trying to avoid,” Livsey concluded.

(Thoughts? Have your letter to the editor published here!)

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