Monday, November 29, 2010


Proposed Zoning Change : On December 21st the Planning & Zoning Board will hold a public hearing to make a text change to the regulation for fences and walls.

If your property abuts the Long Island Sound or rivers, streams, or tidal wetlands you will not be allowed to have any type of fence wall or shrubs within the area located between the mean high water mark (boundary) and the applicable wall of the principle structure. A line extension is projected as being perpendicular from the side property lines to the rear corners of the principal building. The only exception is if a fence is required by the state building code.

It should be noted this regulation, Section, was adopted in 2005 to prevent property owners abutting the Long Island Sound  from erecting fences, walls, or shrubs that would obstruct the water views by other property owners.

I do not agree with the proposed wording, of just saying you "cannot," because it does not consider situations and conditions in which some types of barriers for the protection of children, pets, wildlife, buildings, natural land resources and/or personal property would be needed. There should be wording to allow for when such situations and/or conditions are an issue. I am not a big fan of fences or walls, but they do have purpose. Also, as a note FEMA allows fences in floodways when designed to allow water to flow thru them. [i.e.: channel of rivers, streams or tidal wetlands and the adjacent land used to contain flooding]

I also disagree with the wording of the current regulation in that if a fence/wall is required by the building code you have to have it approved by the City Planner and the P&Z Board.

It should be noted the building code specifies the fence construction type and minimum height.
To me this procedure is a waste of time and money to the property owner. The City Planner and P&Z Board do not have the authority to change the building code. So, since the building code specifies the type of construction and height, the regulation wording should be changed to read that the zoning enforcement officer should review it to see if the fence/wall is located to meet the specified need and minimize obstruction to residents views, and get them approved at time of the zoning application.

Last on this subject is that privacy style fencing is prohibited. This wording should also be updated. There are times you just do not want things to be visible.

In all, the text change as proposed, should be voted down. The existing regulation and wording needs to be thought thru and options investigated by the board members themselves to achieve a regulation that can work and not just say ‘no you cannot do this’.

As always the people on the board asked to represent YOU and you voted them in to do so. Contact your representatives on this and other matters to let them know your views on zoning issues. Do not let them guess want you want or do as they or the city wants.

John Grant

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