DeKALB – Janette Rosenbaum, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, travelled all the way to DeKalb to attend a public hearing on residential weed control Thursday night.
During the meeting, which was organized by the Citizens' Environmental Commission, Rosenbaum offered advice on how to amend a city ordinance on weeds, which has faced criticism from some residents by classifying native plants and grasses as weeds that need to be kept shorter than 8- inches tall.
Rosenbaum, who had been part of a similar discussion at her alma mater, said the city needs to gain public input to give resident stakeholders a chance to speak, find out every issue and make a list of interested topics, be creative in brainstorming efforts to get feedback and do not give up or give in when making a change.
Before the public comment portion of the hearing, where about 20 people voiced their concerns with the ordinance and native plants, Commissioner Ann Shult gave a brief presentation highlighting the benefits of native plants, including the ability of their roots to break up heavy soils to help rainwater to infiltrate the ground.
Ron Cress, who received notices from the city to cut native plants in his yard which helped bring this issue to light, said the issue is much broader than one person's yard.
"It isn't about my yard nor is it about my neighbor who complained about my yard nor is it about the officer who filed the formal complaint," Cress said. "It's about the ordinance."
Megan Johnson, president of the Genoa Township Park District board, said she had received similar notices from the city of Genoa and that definitions regarding weeds should not be so vague.
"There needs to be an evolution of verbage of whats allowed and what's not allowed," Johnson said. "There should be a different way of doing things."
Members of the public critical of native plants questioned who would be responsible for maintaining these plants if they were allowed to grow, as overgrown plants could cause devaluation of neighboring properties.
Public comments will be discussed further during the commission's next meeting at 4 p.m. Aug. 10 at the DeKalb Municipal Building at 200 S. Fourth St.