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Landscape Violations Create Uproar In Tidy Community

January 22, 1988

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ Residents of the tidy Smithville development were outraged when a neighborhood committee issued citations for such aesthetics violations as not having enough stones in a driveway or allowing pine needles to remain on the ground.

The commotion grew so loud that members of the Smithville Community Association met Thursday and rescinded all the citations, said Jules Patt, president of the Smithville Development Co., which appoints the association’s directors.

Last week, more than 140 homeowners in the seven-year-old community received notices by registered mail citing them for a variety of ills.

One resident was cited for storing trash containers on the wrong side of the house. A couple was cited for using a green plastic landscaping border and another for allowing fallen pine needles to remain on front-yard bark chips.

The citations carried a fine of up to $50 a week unless corrected by April 15.

Within days after receiving the citations, some residents in the otherwise sleepy development threatened to uproot, while others defiantly said they would challenge the crackdown in court.

The community association will send letters of explanation and apology to those residents ordered to correct their landscaping.

Patt said the citations came from the community association’s architectural review committee, comprised of local residents with an expressed or professional interest in landscaping and architecture.

″The board made their best efforts to try to protect the values of property in Smithville,″ Patt said, ″and they issued 140 landscape violations which, in many cases, appear to be an expression of overzealousness in the extreme.″

One homeowner, Hazel Magee, said Patt must have known about the citations before they were issued and accused him of ″passing the buck.″

Although she and her husband, Ernest, have spent more than $500 improving their yard with shrubs and other materials, they were told they needed to improve their stone driveway, plus landfill, upgrade and clean their yard.

″We’re not professional landscapers,″ Mrs. Magee said, ″but it’s our property and we should be able to enjoy it the way we want to.″

She recalled how the association created an uproar several years ago by checking residents’ properties for weeds.

″What gets to me is how they walk around on our property and feel free to snoop around,″ she said.

Patt and most residents agree that some regulations are needed to maintain the community’s aesthetics.

″They were written so a junked car would not end up in a driveway or so someone would not paint their house in zebra colors,″ Patt said.

The chairman of the architectural review committee, Roy Aungst, would not comment on the controversy Thursday. But he has said that there has been ″a lot of complacency and apathy″ in Smithville during a construction freeze in the past two years.

Aungst holds college degrees in ornamental horticulture and landscape architecture. Mrs. Magee said his yard ″is gorgeous, but he has access to all these fancy shrubs and things and they probably don’t cost him that much.″

Another resident cited for an unkempt front yard, Geoff Barnes, criticized having a landscape professional judging yards.

″He wants people to have their yards look like his,″ he said. ″As a landscape architect, he can’t be objective.″

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