Fencing ordinance proposal fails

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

City Commissioner Robert Sandoval said no matter how the commission felt about it, they needed to take a vote on a potential ordinance to allow higher front yard fences for residences in the city.

He was alone in his sentiments, and his motion died at Thursday’s commission meeting.

Jim Sitterly of Clovis requested a change in city code, which limits front fences to 4 feet in height. The proposed change would allow for an additional 2 feet, provided at least 80 percent of the surface area was visible.

Sitterly wanted to extend a security fence that is along the other three sides of his house on 124 Colonial Estates Parkway, and wished to keep the same height specifications in front of his house.

When he went to the Planning and Zoning Committee, he was told his request would have not met the nine requirements for a variance of zoning restrictions on front fences. The committee moved the request to the city commission without a recommendation.

A few of Sitterly’s neighbors argued against the change. One neighbor, former Clovis Mayor David Lansford, said he was concerned about the precedent the commission would set in approving Sitterly’s request.

“I just can’t imagine how this could be enacted for the whole city,” Lansford said.

Neighbor Katie Burns said having a neighbor with a house completely enclosed by the fence would create a “psychological barrier” for neighbors and community members in general.

“I’ve been told it’s unwelcoming,” Sitterly said. “To who? People can stop by any time they like.”

Lansford said a house enclosed in a security fence would give the impression a neighborhood isn’t safe.

Commissioners Fred Van Soelen and Juan Garza had concerns about fire department access to such a house.

Sandoval said when the original fence restriction was written, it didn’t deal with wrought iron fence, which Sitterly was going to use.

“Things change, and we’re sitting here because things change,” Sandoval said, before moving to approve introduction of the ordinance. “Regardless of how we vote, we’re going to have to deal with this.”

Later in the meeting, Sitterly requested an easement due to encroachment his fence would create, regardless of height. His house does not run parallel to the sidewalk, and a fence in front of the house would be just one foot short of the sidewalk on the northeast corner. Neighbors voiced no opposition, and the easement was approved.