Knee-Deep in debate

By Jon Moffett

Some communities require a permit for temporary pools

Pool owners could be unknowingly violating zoning laws.

YOUNGSTOWN — As the heat forces people out of their homes and into the pool, some zoning officials warn the private swimming hole can be a hassle as well as a hazard.

Soft-sided or inflatable pools “are extremely popular,” said Patty Magazzine, Poland Township’s assistant zoning inspector. “We’re seeing them pop up all over the place.”

These pools fall into a gray area between wading and permanent above-ground or in-ground pools.

“They are extremely cost-effective and are easily obtainable; you can get them at any Kmart or Big Lots,” Magazzine said.

Though these pools are readily available, they do not come without restrictions. Residents may not know what the regulations are in their community.

Girard and Boardman, for example, require no permit for temporary pools.

Zoning officials in the communities of Austintown, Canfield, Howland and Youngstown, however, said a permit may be required.

Many of the communities have additional rules as to where the pool can be located in relation to the house and adjoining properties, or how long a pool can be left up.

Magazzine said many Poland residents are unaware a permit is required.

“Before you buy one, you need to think about the pros and cons, just like with everything you buy,” Magazzine added.

Kim Mascarella, Howland Township’s assistant zoning director, said, “Safety issues are still very much there. These regulations are designed for the safety of the citizens.”

Temporary pools can be purchased at local retailers. Big Lots featured this inflatable pool in its June 8 advertisement: a 12-foot wide, 2 1‚Ñ2 feet deep EZ Set Pool for $70. A manager of the Youngstown Big Lots wouldn’t give an exact number of pools sold, but said they “are selling very well.”

“We’re trying to get the word out that you do need a permit for temporary pools,” Magazzine said. “Most of the violations were because people didn’t know they needed a permit. However, we do require a permit because we do regulate how long they can be [kept] up.”

Magazzine said 31 pools were issued permits in 2007; temporary pools accounted for 15 of them.

In Poland, “temporary pools” fall under the watch of Robert Monus, the zoning inspector. His job is to regulate the use of pools, responding to neighbors’ concerns and teaching homeowners the rules.

Monus said his biggest concern with the pools is safety.

“Any time a pool goes in, the neighbors call and ask me if a fence is going to be put in. They worry about their children and pets. With these [temporary pools], no fencing is required.”

Fencing also is not required in Canfield for soft-sided pools, said zoning inspector Ted Frazzini.

For the last 30 years or so in Poland, people have been required to have a 6-foot fence around a permanent pool, Monus said. “With these [temporary pools], you aren’t required to have a fence. Some of these [temporary] pools are 31‚Ñ2 feet deep,” Monus said, “but a 4-foot [deep] pool requires a fence. It doesn’t make sense.”

Monus argued his case at a Poland Township Zoning Board meeting in 2005.

The meeting prompted the zoning board to add a separate definition for temporary pools, said Joan Madej, who chairs the board. Such a pool is defined as “designed or used to hold water for the purpose of providing swimming or bathing therein with a minimum depth of 18 inches and a maximum depth of less than [4] feet.”

The meeting also brought about these restrictions for the pools in Poland:

UThe pools must be up no earlier than May 1 and no later than Oct. 1.

UThey must be located in the rear lot of a house at least 10 feet from property lines.

“There are over 350 fatalities [nationwide] each year because of pools,” Monus said. “We need to regulate them.”

“If we could prevent one death due to our restrictions, then we’ve done our job,” Magazzine added. “I never want to hear about a [pool-related] death in our community.”

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