MV Council agrees to fence ordinance

Second reading will be meeting on July 1

MONTE VISTA — The Monte Vista City Council unanimously approved guidelines for fences, garden walls, retaining walls, hedges and screening during Thursday’s meeting, June 17.

Ordinance 909 was brought back before the Monte Vista City Council after it was tabled at the previous meeting on June 3. At the first meeting in June, councilors were unable to agree on some of the guidelines, specifically the height of fencing in the front portion of a residence. 

The proposed ordinance was a result of Cynthia Baird, who lives on Davis Street, coming before council in late May with concerns about the height of a neighbor’s privacy fence. The fence in question according to a city fence permit application was 6-feet tall. She said it blocks visibility for anyone exiting their driveway. 

Baird said in May they were particularly concerned with safety due to the many children in their neighborhood who might get hit due to the lack of visibility.  

She said that other cities, including Del Norte, have many more requirements when it comes to fence building. City staff agreed that it was unusual for the city to not have more codes on fence building. 

Most fencing laws limit the height of artificial fences in residential areas to 4 feet in front yards and 6 feet in backyards. Monte Vista’s proposed ordinance included these guidelines and a setback requirement of 18 inches.

The council discussed the ordinance at their meeting on June 3 and after discussion requested staff make some changes to the ordinance. Thursday’s proposed ordinance set the maximum height of any wall or fence at 6 feet and a 2-foot setback.

“We added and took out some things, so it reads, ‘Sidewalk or Right-of-Way setback. No fence, hedge, or wall shall be placed nearer than two (2) feet to any public sidewalk or right-of-way and if on the corner must comply with Monte Vista Municipal Code 12-17-70 of the Vision Clearance,” City Clerk Unita Vance said during the meeting on June 17. “The other thing that we had changed was making maximum height exceptions ‘No fence, garden wall, retaining wall, or hedge shall exceed six (6) feet in height in a side yard, rear yard, front yard, or street-side yard behind the front building.’ Those were the two things that were requested to change. You guys did discuss three to five feet, setbacks, that was discussed and then the two feet had also been asked to be put in there. So that would take it from an edge of a sidewalk back or if there was no sidewalk it would be from the right of way back.” 

As happened in the June 3 meeting, much discussion followed Vance’s reading of the proposed ordinance. It was brought up that some streets in town have different sidewalk widths and green spaces and some do not have either. 

Different lengths of setbacks were discussed. Councilor Martha Lock said she was concerned that this could take up too much of someone’s yard.

“That can possibly eat up a whole lot of somebody’s front yard, and without it being necessary. What I would like to avoid is over-regulation but still maintain the safety,” Lock said. “I’m looking for an ordinance that covers the safety but doesn’t infringe too much upon the property owner’s right to do with their yard what they want to do.” 

After more discussion, Councilor Larry Foster said, “What would you think about 2 feet away from the sidewalk and 4 feet away from the edge of the road (the right of way)? If there’s no sidewalk present.” 

City staff and councilors agreed this would provide two alternatives to roughly give homeowners the same distance. 

Councilor Lock moved to approve Ordinance 909 as amended by Councilor Foster to be 2 feet from the sidewalk or 4 feet from the right of way. The first reading passed with the entire council voting yes, 4-0. The second reading with the amendments added will take place at the next council meeting on July 1.