Council sends fence ordinance back to Planners
July 21, 2015
The Sweet Home City Council last week decided to remand proposed revisions to the city’s fence ordinances back to the Planning Commission last week following an at-times spirited discussion of permits, fees and other concerns.
The council held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance revisions during its regular meeting on July 14. The Planning Commission held a hearing on the proposed ordinance on May 4 and unanimously recommended council approval.
Among the major features of the revisions, the maximum allowable height of a fence would increase to 7 feet, and a fence permit would be required for repairing more than 25 percent of a fence.
Councilor Jeff Goodwin said that he would like to see the permit requirement changed.
The permit costs $20, and fence builders are required to obtain it prior to building or repairing a fence.
Goodwin questioned whether the city needs to collect money for the permit. If the purpose of the permit is to educate people planning to build a fence about the rules for building a fence and they’re aware of the permit requirement, they’re already educated, he said. If they’re not educated already, the permit isn’t necessary because they’re not getting the permit anyway, he added.
Mayor Jim Gourley said there is more to it than just putting in a fence, sizes and setbacks. If someone puts up a fence and has to tear it down because it violated the rules, it makes the process more intrusive than the permit process, he said.
Goodwin responded: “The permit process, particularly with the fee, doesn’t seem to benefit the citizens.” He said he gets nervous if “we’re going to talk to people” about what to do with their property if they’re complying with the law.
There is a cost to having the building inspector go out and look at the fences, Gourley said.
The permit process isn’t going to help someone with locating underground utilities, Goodwin said. In his experience building fences here, it just makes it harder to build a fence.
If a fence complies with the rules, regardless of a whether the builder obtains a permit, the fence is still legal, he said.
“If you have an existing fence, and the thing is falling over, and you have to come down and get a permit to replace it, that just seems so crazy to me,” said Councilor Dave Trask. If the first section of a 30-year-old fence is bad and needs to be replaced, so will the rest of the 30-year-old fence.
He then questioned why a charge for inspecting a fence was necessary.
“As far as the person having to go out and look at it, they’re on the payroll anyway,” Trask said. “They’re on the payroll anyway. What difference does it make if they’re sitting in the office or if they’re going out and doing five inspections on the same day? It makes no sense to me. None. None whatsoever.”
City Manager Craig Martin said Trask’s complaint was misdirected.
“This is a recommendation that came through our Planning Commission, not staff,” he said. “I would request that you address those comments back to the Planning Commission in a remand and not direct those comments at staff in the manner they’re being directed.”
Trask responded, his voice rising: “I tell you what, you can say what you want. But to be honest with you, Craig, I’m getting tired of staff – not necessarily you, (Planning Services Manager) Laura (LaRoque), – I’m really getting tired of the staff thinking that we work for them.
“OK, I was elected to do this job. You were hired. And I’m getting tired of the stuff that gets thrown back at us because we ask questions. OK? It happened ever since I was on the Budget Committee and everything else. I’m tired of it.”
With that, the council voted 4-2 to follow LaRoque’s recommendation and remand the proposed ordinance to the Planning Commission. Voting to remand it were Ryan Underwood, Greg Mahler, Trask and Goodwin. Gourley and Bruce Hobbs voted no.
Marybeth Angulo was absent.