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City panel considers end to fence height limit

by David Trigueiro

The Weiser City Council wants to know why there is a regulation on the books limiting the height of back and rear side yard fences to seven feet.
The question came up at the council’s July meeting two weeks ago when Rolling Hills resident John Panike informed them his builder had been denied a permit to construct an eight-foot fence at the end of his back yard.

Panike explained that the fence was to replace a line of trees that once sheltered his back yard. The trees grew sick and had to be removed, he said, and he would like to build a fence providing the same amount of shelter.

Councilor Layna Hafer, who is a member of the safety committee, noted that, in the past, property owners have been required to saw a foot or more off the top of fences that violated the seven-foot rule.
Neither Hafer nor Councilor Perry Plischke, chairman of the safety committee, could think of a reason for the regulation, nor could any other members of the council during their discussion of the matter at the meeting.

Instead of considering granting Panike a variance to exceed the height limit, the councilors decided to refer the matter to the Public Safety Committee, which would research the history of the regulation and make a recommendation about changing the regulation or doing away with it altogether. The committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening prior to a special council meeting, which will consider the matter based on any new information.

In an interview last Thursday, Plischke said he realized most towns and cities have a height restriction on fences. A front yard fence can’t exceed four feet, he noted, for clear safety reasons. Drivers and pedestrians must be able to see traffic and pedestrians entering the street. He couldn’t think of a safety reason for height restrictions on backyard fences. “There has to be a reason somewhere, but it seems a bit arbitrary to us now,” he said.
Plischke went on to comment that it amazed him somewhat that someone had requested a building permit for a fence. “The way things used to be, they’d just build it and wait to see if anyone complained. It shows we’ve made progress in straightening out compliance with ordinances.”