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Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Political Parable

As you know, Bob, I'm an elected village official. This is a true story.

Swimming pools, in the State of Ohio, in the eyes of the law are considered "attractive nuisances." While that means several things, it mostly means that by having a pool on your property you are opening yourself up to a lot of liability. Such as if someone wanders onto your property and falls into the pool and injures themselves or worse, drowns, the home owner can be sued for damages. Even if you didn't invite them on, or were even at home at the time. Also, your local government can be held liable as well.

Now, you can mitigate some of that liability by regulation. To that end, we enacted rules in our zoning text that if you had a pool (excluding kiddie pools and ponds within certain limits) you had to have a barrier at least six-feet high with a locking gate. When we passed this, we were smart enough to put in exclusions for the kiddie pools and decorative ponds. However we missed the abundance of inflatable pools that are all the rage.

Inflatable pools are popular because they're cheap, and they sell themselves on being safer (they really aren't, most deaths in pools don't occur because the person accidentally falls in, they intend to get into the pool). So requiring owners of these portable, smaller pools to erect a six-foot fence pretty much nixed the whole affordable part. And another council member had such a pool, but demoed it because of the new restrictions.

So we were moved to make an exception for these pools at this council member's insistence. We went to amend the zoning text to exempt inflatable pools less than 18 feet in diameter (their pool was 12 feet). This council person was very upset because they make these pools up to 32 feet. Unfortunately there's no accepted language defining this type of pool, so the only tool left to us was size and we felt that at 20 feet, you start to get into the size of permanent above ground pools. With that, council decided to kept to the 18 foot size.

The council member who drug us to amend the zoning text didn't like that we weren't willing to change it to include the largest of the pools and they voted against the amendment.

This is a true story. They voted against their own amendment because they didn't get everything they wanted, even through it loosened the legislation to their benefit.

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