While Gov. John Kasich used his veto pen liberally to strike 44 provision from the two-year state budget, he spared an amendment that will allow property owners who live along protected waterways to maintain vegetation that serves as a protective buffer zone.
The language in the budget states that municipalities that have established and implemented watershed management programs must allow contiguous property owners to maintain the buffer zones for access paths no greater than five feet in width; the creation of a “view corridor”; removal of invasive plant species; and beautification of the property.
Under the provision, law enforcement officials will be unable to issue trespassing citations to individuals who enter buffer zones to mow grass, weeds or other vegetation.
“That will help county residents from being harassed as much by city of Columbus bureaucrats,” said State Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Powell, who worked with other lawmakers to insert the provision into the two-year spending outline.
A message left with a spokeswoman in Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s office was not returned.
Homeowners near the O’Shaughnessy and Hoover reservoirs in Delaware County – both of which are owned and maintained by the city of Columbus — have received letters from the city, directing them to leave the vegetation along the shoreline alone.
At least two county residents have faced criminal trespassing charges for failure to comply. In both cases, the charges were dismissed after the landowners agreed to certain conditions imposed by the city.
The vegetation along the shores of reservoirs protect drinking water by providing a buffer zone that filters runoff water.
For that reason, Kasich vetoed a nearly identical provision in the previous two-year budget.
In a veto message issued then, he said it would “restrict municipalities’ ability to use buffer zones of grass, trees or other vegetation to protect waterways, reservoirs and sources of public drinking water from contamination for the runoff of fertilizers, pesticides, pet and livestock feces, sediments and other contaminants.”
The Ohio Environmental Council, which dubbed the earlier version of the provision the “tread and mow on me amendment,” lauded the governor for his 2013 veto.
The editorial board at the Akron Beacon Journal had urged Kasich to again use his veto power to strike the measure from the budget, calling the provision “another attack on municipal home rule powers by Republican legislative majorities at the Statehouse.”
Last month the city was forced to issue an advisory due to high nitrate levels in drinking water, which city officials attributed to runoff fertilizer from farms and lawns.