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Williamsburg asked to review ordinances


With just four weeks before the city council approves changes to it codes of ordinances, one resident is disappointed with the inability to build a greenhouse under the current code.

Williamsburg resident Brian Anderson approached the council at its meeting Monday, Jan. 11, to ask members to consider rewriting city code to allow for the construction of hobby greenhouses.

Anderson defined a hobby greenhouse as a 10 x 16 foot translucent shed. As a gardener who supports the movement to produce food locally, Anderson said he believed an ordinance permitting hobby greenhouses would be a benefit to local gardeners. It would also be an attraction to people considering moving to Williamsburg to “escape big city problems,” he said.

Anderson said there are many downsides to current options available to gardeners looking to start garden transplants, such as himself.

“Without the ability to start your own transplants in a greenhouse, you must either grow indoors, under grow lights or purchase plants from a retail outlet,” he said.

Anderson continued, “Grow-lights that are used improperly can be a fire hazard and certainly pose more of a public risk than a hobby greenhouse. If you choose to purchase plants from a retailer, you are severely limited in what varieties you can grow. For most serious gardeners, these are two less than ideal choices.”

He also noted that some the city codes of some Iowa towns, including Alburnett, Belle Plaine and Solon, do allow for hobby greenhouses.

Anderson said he had applied for a variance but had been denied by city attorney Eric Tindal.

Tindal explained to the council that variances can only be granted in the case of a variance from existing standards of layouts, heights or setbacks.

“You can’t get a variance for a use. Use is controlled by the zoning regimen,” Tindal explained.

In order for the city to allow Anderson to have a hobby greenhouse, the property would have to be rezoned or the council would have to approve modifying the uses under the special exceptions tied to the ordinance.

Mayor Frank Murphy said the council will have to examine the issue more closely and review other city codes before taking action.


The council approved the following council committee appointments:

• Library — Don Kirkpatrick and Pat McGovern.

• Finance and Insurance — Kirkpatrick and Theresa Phillips.

• Fire, Police, Civil Defense — Adam Grier and McGovern.

• OSHA and Energy — Grier and Marty Bunge.

• Streets, Sidewalks, Lighting — Grier and Phillips.

• Parks and Building — Bunge and McGovern.

• Water, Sewer, Solid Waste — Grier and Bunge.

• Building Permits — Kirkpatrick and Phillips.

• Personnel — Kirkpatrick and Bunge.

• Landfill — Phillips.

The council approved appointments to the following boards:

• Planning and Zoning Commission — Chris Eicchorn, Dan Becker and Carroll Scott.

• Parks and Recreation — Mayor Frank Murphy and an open position.

• Historical Commission — Jay Gruenwald, Mary Miller and Theresa Phillips.


• The council approved requesting the deadline on its bank loan for the childcare center be extended to May 15, based on doubts expressed by city engineer Jim Jacobs of the center being completed by its new substantial completion date of Feb. 1.

• The council approved holding a public hearing regarding the adoption of changes to the code of ordinances at its Feb. 8 meeting.

The next regular meeting of the Williamsburg City Council is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 25, at 7:30 p.m.

UPDATED January 13, 2010 4:20 PM

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