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Town of Paonia to revisit new fencing ordinance

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When it comes to tall fences, Paonia trustees want to be good neighbors.

At the June 11 board meeting trustees voted to revisit the fencing ordinance it adopted in January after two individuals complained that it's too restrictive. Since it wasn't an agenda item, residents Debbie Spiegel and Pam Jackson spoke during the "Visitors" portion of the meeting.

Spiegel, who has owned a corner lot in town for about two and a half years, said she represents other corner lot owners in asking trustees to "Please consider looking at alternatives so that we can arrive at a reasonable ordinance that's safe for motorists, pedestrians, and also is user-friendly to property owners."

The problem, she said, "is that transparent fences are treated the same way as solid fences."

Ordinance 2019-02, "Fences, Hedges, & Walls," was adopted in January and replaces an existing ordinance. (Until it's codified, the new ordinance is published in town code under "Adopted Ordinances Not Yet Codified"). It limits the height of fences located on the street side of properties in the R-1, R-2 and R-3 residential zones to four feet, or 48 inches, and rear fences, hedges or walls cannot exceed six feet.

But on corner lots, fences, hedges and walls are limited to 36 inches, which is six inches lower than the previous ordinance; they must remain at that height for a minimum of 30 feet on either side of the corner.

When the 2019 ordinance was adopted, the 36-inch limit was intended to provide a clear line of sight for drivers and pedestrians. "At 42 inches, as low as some cars are, that can affect sightlines," blocking sight of oncoming traffic, especially at alleyways and corners, said administrator Ken Knight in recommending changes to the board.

When Spiegel got a dog last January she approached the town for guidance and was told that if she wanted a taller fence she'd have to apply for a variance. Under town code, a variance application costs $250 and must go before the board of appeals. Under the new ordinance a $50 fee is required for the building inspector to review fence plans to ensure they comply with the International Building Code.

Spiegel said she would like the town to consider re-writing the ordinance to allow for taller fences if they're transparent. "The reason I want a fence is because I have a big dog," she said. Realizing that loose dogs are a safety issue, a 36-inch fence, "will not contain a dog, which is my whole point for putting up a fence."

Jackson said she wants to erect a wrought iron fence, which would also require a variance. Showing trustees and town staff photos of another wrought iron fence in town to illustrate how transparent they are, she asked that the law be "more reasonable" and distinguish between solid and transparent materials.

The fencing ordinance will come before the board as early as the June 25 meeting. Agendas are posted prior to meetings at www.townofpaonia.com, and at Town Hall.

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