A South Williamsport family will have to tear down a custom-built flower box in its front yard or appeal the borough zoning hearing board's decision that the structure violates its ordinance.
The five-member board voted unanimously Monday evening to deny Mark R. Aungst's appeal that the flower boxes he built at his 521 Fairmont Ave. home should stay.
Borough solicitor Joseph F. Orso III directed Rodney Heindel, zoning officer, to cite Aungst's flower boxes as an unauthorized accessory structure.
"That letter is what I based my determination on," Heindel said of Orso's instructions at the onset of the hearing at borough hall.
Heindel also offered a letter dated Dec. 14 from borough council President J. Bernard Schelb that Aungst's flower boxes should be torn down because they were built on top of a right of way.
Aungst, who built the wooden flower box for his 8-year-old daughter, Megan, in which to garden, said he was upset because he never received a letter or was contacted by Orso, Schelb or anyone involved in the dispute until he got a violation letter from Heindel dated Oct. 15 that he would have to pay $200 to file an appeal with the borough.
Aungst said he would "absolutely" appeal Monday's decision. Without doing so, he risks being fined for violating the borough's ordinance.
Heindel presented photos showing survey pins near Aungst's property, but those were disputed because Aungst said there was no evidence of who placed the markers and when they may have been staked.
Aungst also argued that the garden box was not an unauthorized structure.
"I didn't go for a permit because it's a garden box. There's nothing that lives in there but plants," he said.
"I'm not taking it down. It's my daughter's flower box," he said at one point during the proceeding. "It looks great."
The borough's code allows garden boxes as a permitted exception, but the dimensions of Aungst's structure exceed established allowable height.
Aungst said more than 300 people have signed a petition for his family to keep the flower boxes after a Sun-Gazette article appeared on Dec. 9.
"I pay taxes; it's my yard," he said.
Aungst's daughter told the board that she enjoyed gardening.
"This past summer, I've experimented growing a lot of things in my garden boxes," the third-grader said.
One neighbor, Lisa Adams, of Sylvan Drive, spoke in favor of Aungst's creation.
"It's elaborate, but it's beautiful," she said.
Tom Waltz, of 519 Fairmont Ave. and Aungst's neighbor, said the flower box may prove dangerous for drivers.
"It is a nice structure, but it hinders our line of sight," he said.
Board members Larry Baker, Donald Lowe, John Beattie, Dennis Ream and David Huyck upheld Heindel's determination.