Toledo City Council candidate Rick VanLandingham was ordered by the city building inspector to build a 4-foot fence around a “water garden” in his yard after an investigation yesterday into his Paxton Street property.
City officials from several departments inspected Mr. VanLandingham's home at 1312 Paxton St. at the request of Mike Stanford, commissioner of building inspection for Toledo.
Mr. VanLandingham is supposed to have the fence constructed by tomorrow.
At issue is whether a dug-out, water-filled area Sgt. Richard Murphy described as 50 feet by 30 feet is a pool or pond.
Mr. VanLandingham said last night it's a pond that's about waist deep. He described it as a “water garden” he built on property that used to contain a house that burned down.
“This is not a swimming pool,” he said. “It was not built for swimming or recreational bathing,” which he said is part of the definition of a swimming pool.
Mr. Stanford disagreed and said Mr. VanLandingham should have received a permit to build a swimming pool.
“City code states that anything over 24 inches in depth, something that someone can swim in, is a pool,” he said. “This thing is enormous. He needed a permit before he even started to do this.”
But Mr. VanLandingham said when he began working on the area last year, staff members of the building inspector's office told him he didn't need a permit.
Mr. Stanford said city officials are giving Mr. VanLandingham until tomorrow to put up a fence to secure the area.
Mr. Stanford said officials will have to work out the permit details with Mr. VanLandingham beyond that. “Do you know how many accidental drownings we have in this city a year?” Mr. Stanford asked. “At least a half-dozen, and he is completely responsible for anything that happens in that body of water.”
Mr. VanLandingham said he will work with the city on acquiring any required permits, but at this point, he's not sure what is expected.
Sergeant Murphy said officers checked the home at 10:29 a.m. and brought inspectors from the city Department of Neighborhoods. He said neighbors told him children were swimming in the pond this week, and he considered it a safety hazard. “I hope he's made to fill it up immediately,” Sergeant Murphy said. “Maybe he's trying to create his own wetlands.”
Sergeant Murphy said some neighbors complained about Mr. VanLandingham's home.
Mr. VanLandingham, an environmentalist who has opposed destruction of the Manhattan Marsh wetlands area of North Toledo, said he believes the city is hassling him over the fence because he's running for council.
“I think it has a lot to with running for office. This is unprecedented attention for one house. What happened today was a witch hunt. They came out looking for infractions,” he said.
While police were inspecting his property, Mr. VanLandingham was attending a Toledo City Council hearing on a demolition permit for a building at 523 Monroe St. in the Warehouse District Mr. VanLandingham won a 45-day delay in the demolition by requesting an appeal of the demolition permit, which he called defective.
He is one of five candidates for the 4th District council seat in an election to be held May 7.
Also running are Mansour Bey, Perlean Griffin, Michael Ashford, and Dennis Lange. Mr. Ashford holds the seat as an appointed council member.