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Ripon residents must trim shrubs, trees back due to safety concerns
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RIPON – Residents will have to keep closer tabs on their hedges, trees and shrubs around their home.

Landscape, if unkempt, can interfere with the safe sight distance or, rather, obstruct the view for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

For that reason, the Ripon City Council last Tuesday unanimously approved an amendment to the landscaping and irrigation chapter of the ordinance.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ geometric design of highways and streets was used by staff to provide a “safety triangle” or safety sight distance requirements in pertaining to traffic safety from the point of the stop bar.

“Part of the requirement of this chapter has to do with safety as it relates to landscape materials and their placement on parcels within the City of Ripon,” said Ken Zuidervaart, director of planning.

Under the previous code, hedges, trees and shrubs in the front yard could be no higher than three feet in height and trees in the same area are required to be pruned at a minimum clearance of six feet from the ground.

“Staff randomly surveyed 50 homes throughout the city and found that 65 percent of the single family homes did not comply with the current landscaping ordinance,” said Zuidervaart, who noted this figure was equivalent to about 3,000 out of 4,500 homes.

The majority of that same 65 percent not complying with the current code didn’t pose traffic safety issues.

“Most of the non-compliant landscaping was located near the front of the homes,” he added.

The change to the ordinance was necessary for two reasons.

“Safety was the utmost importance,” Zuidervaart said “The change makes it easy to define from a safety standpoint.”

Aesthetics was No. 2. This includes tidiness around many of the front yards.

“I think 80 percent of the houses with shrubs over three feet provide privacy and prevents intrusion from burglars,” Councilman Chuck Winn said.

The change was initiated about two months ago when code compliance committee – members include Police Chief Ed Ormonde and the Ripon Consolidated Fire District – discussed the safety standards.

From there, the Planning Commission held a public hearing in March to provide residents with the opportunity to comment on the proposed amendment to the City of Ripon’s Development Title regarding landscaping and irrigation as it relates to safety standards for landscaping materials.

Like Council, the Planning Commission also approved the recommended change, 5-0.

“Clean it up,” Councilman Garry Krebbs said. “(We) got rid of the stuff (in the ordinance) that doesn’t make sense.”

To reach reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail