Monte Vista Council discussion on fences continues

Ordinance proposed heights of 4 feet in front areas, 6 feet in rear

MONTE VISTA — Fencing has become an issue in Monte Vista, specifically its height in the front.

City staff presented an ordinance during Thursday’s council meeting, June 3, that adds guidelines for fences, garden walls, retaining walls, hedges and screening.

The proposed change 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 is 6-feet tall. She said it blocks visibility for anyone exiting their driveway.

Baird said 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.

Councilor Martha Lock said “we may be going a little too far with this” and was not in favor of the ordinance’s height limits.

“Because somebody is being ugly now, good people in town are going to have to be under regulations, I don’t think that they should be under,” Lock said. “For example, I don’t think that the front yard and the side yard should only be allowed to be 4 foot. One of the complaints was that a toddler was walking through. When is the last time you saw a 4-foot toddler? A 4-foot fence is not going to be any safer than a 6-foot fence. What I think would be safer would be addressing more the setback.”

The 4-foot height has been an issue in other cities. People contend animals can easily jump it. Lock pointed this out and said the ordinance may be an overreach by the city.

“My dog can jump a 4-foot fence. A lot of dogs can jump a 4-foot fence,” Lock said. “Maybe people want 6-foot just because they want privacy. Maybe it’s none of our business why they want 6-foot (fence). Maybe we shouldn’t have to make people justify what they want on their property as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of another. My rights go as far as they begin to infringe on somebody else’s. So, a setback I think would solve that better than a height issue.” 

More discussion followed.

Councilor Larry Foster questioned if the 18-inch setback would be sufficient to gain visibility down a sidewalk for people pulling out of driveways. 

City Manager Forrest Neuerburg agreed.

“I think if we’re not going to have a 4-foot restriction we’re going to probably want somewhere between 3 and 5 feet to have a fair chance at seeing stuff,” Neuerburg said. 

After more discussion, the item was tabled with a 4-0 vote to the next meeting, June 17, to seek clarification on guidelines for setbacks and fence heights.

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