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Published: Tuesday, 10/19/2004

Wildflower fan loses appeal before city zoning board

Wildflower fan Steven Levine argued "woody growth" versus "herbaceous vegetation" yesterday in trying to derail a city order to cut down tall plant growth along his driveway.

But the Administrative Board of Zoning Appeals wasn't interested in botany.

"The bottom line is, we have to enforce the code," said board chairman David Williams.

Mr. Levine, 47, of 2654 Letchworth Pkwy. in West Toledo, was cited for violating the city's zoning code by maintaining a hedge or fence higher than 42 inches in his front yard within 25 feet of the curb. Yesterday, he appealed the order, claiming the hedge was actually on a neighbor's property, that it helped him maintain his mental health, and that it technically isn't a hedge.

"The document from the city makes no mention of herbaceous vegetation, and any dictionary will tell you that a hedge consists of woody growth," Mr. Levine said.

The board voted unanimously to deny the variance. Members told Mr. Levine that tall hedges and fences obstruct a driver's view while backing out of his driveway. They urged Mr. Levine to find a way to comply, such as by growing shorter plants in the front yard.

"If you plant your wildflowers that don't go over 42 inches in some semblance of order and not random, the department of neighborhoods would not cite your property," board member Reed Knowles said.

Mr. Levine said after the hearing that the cold weather will soon knock down his tall plants, so he has some time before he has to decide how to respond.

Mr. Levine was cited in August after a neighbor complained. He said he fought a similar complaint in 1999, and still contends the yard is not overgrown, but rather a garden of native plants, with as many as 220 species planted over the last 12 years.

Mr. Levine is also appealing a related nuisance abatement charge regarding his back yard. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday on that case in front of the Nuisance Abatement Appeals Board.

In other action, the appeals board approved a variance to allow three signs for Tony Packo's planned restaurant at 7 South Superior St. in the Warehouse District. City regulations permit two signs per building.

Clinton Wallace, the city's chief building official, said the staff and the board agreed the location near the stadium was appropriate for an extra sign. He said the board also recognized the national prominence of Packo's and its contribution to Toledo.

Tony Packo, Jr., company president, said yesterday that the restaurant needs the signs to compete effectively.

"You've got to pull out all the stops in this particular location," Mr. Packo said.

The East Toledo-based restaurant announced in May that it would buy and renovate a former auto glass business a block from Fifth Third Field. Mr. Packo said the building has been gutted and construction is about to begin.

The board denied a variance to allow more than three unrelated people to live at 3315 Stanhope Dr. in the Lincolnshire neighborhood. A lawyer representing the owner said the home is owned by a trust for the benefit of a college student who lives there. The trust also rents space in the house to three other college students.



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