City council wants more clarity on fence legislation

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By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor

Grove City Council is considering legislation that deals with privacy fencing.

At the April 5 meeting, council voted to postpone an ordinance that would define what is a privacy fence and restrict their use.

According to Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage, a privacy fence has not been defined in the city’s code since it was adopted in the mid-1970s. He said city officials have been in numerous confusing situations regarding fencing with homeowner’s associations and people wanting to build.

“This is an attempt to give clarity,” said Stage. “What is a privacy fence and how is it used?”

Stephen Smith, the city’s law director, said residents will not have to tear down a current privacy fence.

“Everyone’s fence gets to stay as long as it’s legal,” said Smith.

City Administrator Chuck Boso said the goal of the legislation is to allow residents to have privacy and pet control but to have fencing that is not detrimental to the appeal of a neighborhood.

“That’s the big challenge,” he said.

According to the legislation, privacy fencing has become a challenging zoning issue that impacts the health, safety and welfare of the community and the city administration would like to enforce stricter standards to ensure high quality development, safer fencing requirements, and more appealing neighborhood aesthetics.

The legislation presented at the council meeting defines a privacy fence as a barrier to inhibit public view and provide seclusion and, when viewed at right angles, having more than 50 percent of its vertical surface area closed to light and air, constructed of wood conditioned for exterior use, vinyl, stone, or masonry. It goes on to say that no fence on any lot, except a privacy fence, shall be erected more than four feet in height. The height of a privacy fence shall not exceed six feet in height or 36 feet in length on each side. The legislation states that a privacy fence should not be used to enclose the entire perimeter of the property.

Residents sent comments to the city via its social media pages. Many were not in favor of the legislation, saying it is limiting and it would prohibit people from running a fence over the entire yard if they have a larger property. Other residents just do not want their local government telling them what they can and cannot do with their property. Some residents are in favor of the legislation because they are tired of looking at unsightly fencing.

Councilman Aaron Schlabach said the residents have made it clear to city officials that they do not favor this legislation.

“We should listen,” he said.

Stage said city officials have listened to the public and never intended to tell people to tear down their fences.

“It (the legislation) needs to be fine-tuned,” said Stage.

Other council members were also on the fence about the legislation.

Ted Berry said what looks pleasing to one person may look different to another. He said he would be more apt to support legislation that deals with the upkeep of fencing.

Roby Schottke said there are many valid reasons why people want a stockade fence. He said the city already has a code to deal with dilapidated fencing and it is up to the city to enforce it.

Council agreed to postpone the ordinance until the May 3 meeting for additional clarity.

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