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Fence & shrub heights pondered

City of Warren planning officials continue to discuss fence and shrub height regulations.

The Planning Commission met for the first time since June when the issue was last discussed.

At issue are height restrictions on fences and shrubs on corner lot properties within the city.

City Planner David Hildebrand said the city’s zoning hearing board has fielded three special exception requests – all of which were granted – from individuals who wanted to get a six foot high fence in an area that was considered a front yard, which is limited to four feet.

So for the owner of a corner lot, what side of their yard is considered their front yard?

Hildebrand said that prior discussion on the issue settled on calling the front yard as “being where the address is.” So if you own a corner lot on Madison Ave. and Central Ave., as an example cited in the meeting, your front yard would be what your street address is.

But the higher fences couldn’t be installed up to the street corner, though, as regulations discussed would permit the higher fence to come up the side “no further than the end of the front porch,” Hildebrand suggested.

Chairman Don Nelson said such a recommendation would “flow” from an “aesthetic standpoint.”

Hildebrand said these changes to the ordinance are aimed at part to “get away from the requirement of going to the (zoning hearing) board every time” for city residents.

Terry Williams, the city’s director of codes, permitting and recreation services, noted that the zoning ordinance does not include any language on the materials that can be used to construct fences. Beyond that, no building permit would be needed for fences in this section.

She said that staff don’t object to the inclusion of such regulations and noted it “may be appropriate to add something.”

“We could venture back into that,” Hildebrand said. “I think in most cases in the city or county… most people are pretty good about that” either with the materials they utilize or “working with one of the fence companies.”

Both the ordinance generally and the materials issue specifically will be back before the commission next month.

Discussion then shifted to hedge height.

Commission member Angie Dart asked why the city would limit hedge height in a side or back yard.

Hildebrand said the commission had previously discussed “not dealing with the hedge part” and acknowledged that it is “not the easiest thing to enforce.”

“The biggest thing is visibility,” he noted.

Williams said on that issue that police have the ability to reduce or remove the size of a hedge in such a situation.

Nelson suggested that the side and back yard regulations on hedge height be removed while four-foot regulations remain in front yards.

“We can bring that back and take another look at that,” Hildebrand said. “(It) very seldom comes up as a problem.”

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