A controversial set of regulations that would limit the height of residential fences and hedges in North Charleston, particularly on corner lots, has resurfaced this week.
The main focus of the rules is to outlaw ugly fences built out of scrap materials.
City spokesman Ryan Johnson has said new regulations “would stop your neighbor from building a fence next to you out of plywood and razor wire.”
But it’s the proposed limits on the height of fences and hedges that have proved controversial.
A previous draft of the rules would have required property owners to remove or shorten fences and shrubs that were too tall, and at a February meeting the chairwoman of the city Planning Commission suggested prohibiting fences and plants of any size on yards near street intersections.
The proposed rules have been under discussion since last summer and have been rewritten several times. What’s new in the proposal released this week is that homeowners would not have to tear down existing fences that are taller than the new rules would allow.
“If it was made out of sheet metal, which we have seen, then he would have to tear it down,” said city attorney Francie Austin.
And even then, property owners would have up to five years to remove fences made from newly prohibited materials.
In general, the proposed regulations would limit front-yard fences to a height of 4 feet, and would require that fences be constructed from appropriate materials.
However, under a companion ordinance, on corner lots in residential areas no fence, bush or hedge, could be taller than 3 feet above street level, within an area extended at least 20 feet from the intersection. That rule is aimed at clarifying an existing regulation that’s meant to help motorists see the traffic on cross streets at intersections.
The city already has a regulation about limiting the height of items such as fences and shrubbery at intersections, but the area covered by that rule isn’t well-defined and the ordinance is little known.
The Planning Commission on Monday night voted unanimously to recommend that City Council approve the new fence-related ordinance, but the commission voted unanimously against recommending the new version of the “visibility triangle” rules dealing with intersections.
Austin, who attended the meeting, said the planners were concerned that existing fences would be allowed to remain if they are too high, but not hedges.
City Council could consider the measures later this month. The council does not have to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendations.