Planning Commission weighs changes in city rules governing fences, hedges

The Planning Commission is considering changes to the city’s fencing ordinance, allowing residents to grow bushes and hedges above 6 feet inside backyards and allowing 6-foot fences along street side yards.

The Planning Commission discussed possible changes on April 6.

“We had a great philosophical discussion on fences, and everyone has a different idea,” Community Development Director Carol Lewis said. Out of the discussion, the commission didn’t reach 100-percent consensus, but commissioners decided to consider two changes.

Lewis will return to the Planning Commission with draft proposals in June.

Current rules prohibit bushes and hedges taller than 6 feet in backyards, the same as fences, Lewis said. A proposed revision will eliminate that restriction.

Lewis will take two options to the Planning Commission next month regarding street side yards. Street side yards only exist on corner lots. The shortest face of the lot is the front. The longest is the street side.

On the street side, residents can build fences up to 3 1/2 feet tall, up to 4 feet with open chain link, within 15 feet of the property line.

One proposed option would allow fences up to 6 feet at the property line. The other proposal will allow fences up to 6 feet at least 3 feet from the property line.

The changes will not change clear-vision requirements on the corner. Within 20 feet of an intersection, fences may not be taller than 2 1/2 feet.

The commission also talked about ways to deal with properties with steep hillsides along property lines, Lewis said. Some of those can end up with fences 12 feet or higher above the street. Some examples exist along Oak Terrace and 10th Avenue.

Some of those meet requirements, while others require variances to allow fences, she said. The commission chose not to address this issue, which is relatively rare, because it is difficult to set objective criteria. Those cases will be dealt with by using variances, she said.

Fence ordinance revisions could be in front of the City Council by July, Lewis said.

In May, Lewis said, the Planning Commission will look at the city’s sign ordinances. That will be more controversial and will take more time to complete, and the council may have to have its own discussions on the subject. Revisions on the sign ordinance could take up to a year.

Present at the meeting were commissioners Lance Gatchell, Al Culver, Henry Wolthuis, Chairman Dick Meyers, Greg Stephens, Frank Javersak and Michael Adams.

In other business, the commission:

— Approved a conditional use request by Donald Schneider to live in a structure with a commercial recording studio in a highway commercial zone at 2252 Main St., property owned by John Cvitanich.

— Approved a conditional use request by Travis Frick to construct a two-story accessory building, 2,325 square feet, on a lot with no primary use at 4680 Long St., along with a hard-surfaced approach requirement.

— Approved an extension on the Carrie Ann Subdivision, 3715 Long St.