Evanston’s Human Services Committee has put on hold a proposal to limit the height of hedges in front and side yards while asking city staff to gather more information about it.

At Monday night’s meeting, Alderman Dolores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she asked staff to develop the proposal after receiving several calls from residents who were concerned about safety hazards large shrubs and hedges posed to pedestrians.

In an interview following the meeting, Holmes said the residents were particularly concerned about people hiding behind tall bushes.

The proposed ordinance, drafted by City Attorney Grant Farrar, would limit the height of hedges and shrubs to six feet.

An existing ordinance already bars hedges that intrude on the public right-of-way, including sidewalks. City staff were not immediately available to report how many citiations are issued for violation of that ordinance, and a stroll down many streets in town reveals numerous apparent violations.

The proposed ordinance was unpopular with at least two of the five aldermen present at the meeting.

“To restrict hedges to six feet doesn’t improve much of anything,” Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th ward, said. “To restrict them to four feet seems truly, truly ambitious and overreaching.”

While he was sympathetic to residents’ safety concerns, Tendam said he felt there are better ways to address the issue than imposing a limit on hedge heights.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she had received a “strong negative response” about the proposed ordinance from her constituents.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, wondered how the city would enforce the proposed ordinance, what the fine would be

Grover’s questions were echoed by Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, who also asked how communities with similar ordinances dealt with the situation.

Top: Hedges tall, and not so, at a home on Church Street near downtown Evanston.

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  1. Sanity Check

    Thank you to Alderman Tendam and Alderman Fiske for bringing sanity to the table on this topic.  If a handful of constituents in Alderman Holmes' Ward have concerns, this is an opportunity for those neighbors to openly converse and explore pathways to resolution.  Perhaps heightened police patrols in areas of concern could be one of those resolutions.  Another might be to have one of our City staff visit homes with overgrown hedges in the area of concern to inquire if a homeowner would consider trimming their existing hedges.  Sometimes the easy answer is really just to let homeowners know something on their property is causing fear for their nearby neighbors.  If my neighbors asked me to correct something due to a concern they had, I would make every effort to work with them.  At the very least we might agree on a compromise… that is what being good neighbors is all about.  Having such discussions with concerned residents would negate the entire City being impacted. 

    Obviously, I realize not everyone is a good neighbor, but the answer to the issue here should not be to punish an entire city of residents.

    1. This is an absurd proposal.

      We will be putting out flyers this weekend to those who would be in violation of this absurd proposal on the main streets of town where large hedges help mask speeding cars and trucks from view.

      We will be asking these home owners to call their alderman to ask that they vote this ridiculous ordinance down should it be grought to the city council.

      The proposed ordiance in nonsensical on its face as a six foot hedge will not eliminate potential hiding places. It would, however, bring down the property values of those homes which need foliage to block out street noise, car lights and maintain some form of privacy.

      I would have thought that the cutting down of all of those trees for a parking lamp on the lake would have satisfied the anti-foliage people. apparently, it has merely whetted their appetites.

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