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More Details on the Fence Set-Back Problem

posted Dec 10, 2010, 8:19 AM by Marie Sligh   [ updated Dec 10, 2010, 8:22 AM ]
The Ordinance is “Subsection 5-14 (B)(1)(B) of Appendix A,” as known as the “University Boulevard Overlay Fence Ordinance.”

This proposed set-back is almost as bad for the businesses as it is for the residents. Businesses are usually willing to devote some of their expensive business land to worthwhile public purposes such as a green-space tree buffer. However, it is impossible to maintain a tree buffer in only 3 feet. So why is the City trying to require this? The stated reason is so the business will have a place convenient for workers to stand when maintaining the fence.

That’s right: a big-government, nanny-state provision that instructs businesses to give up hundreds of square feet of their private property in order to perform a private task on their privately-owned fence by standing in the spot the government picked out for them. No public purpose is served. For example, the Healthcare organization land next to me will sacrifice more than 1700 square feet land worth tens of thousands of dollars to this utterly unnecessary law. In addition, if somebody cutting through on the strip of business land so attractive as a walkway falls and is hurt, the business could get sued.

No business owning land on University Boulevard in front of Deer Park wants the government to decide for them that they can’t put their own fence near their own property line without paying a resident for an easement. They don’t want to be exposed to lawsuits. And they certainly don’t want to be forced to set aside hundreds of square feet of expensive land, not for a public purpose, but for the convenience of a fence repair company a few times per decade. In addition, Nason Medical, which because of an unexpected problem, really needs the law to allow it to place its fence at the property edge seems deliberately excluded by the set-back. Why, I don’t know. If the set-back is passed, the public will continue to perceive the Nason fence as being in inexplicable violation of the law.

No resident affected wants the set-backs. Among those who will be made easier targets for crimes of opportunity are some houses on Dantzler, Shadow, Fernwood, Nevonna, Gable, Storen, and possibly Antler, as well as some possible locations on Greenridge. A cut-through behind the Deer Park Baptist Church parsonage will lend easy access to Church property where children play and from there across to facing houses on Storen.

The City keeps coming up with new reasons for this set-back:
  1. On two occasions within the last few weeks, our Councilman Bobby Jameson agreed with me that the set-back passageways are dangerous and he promised both times to have them eliminated. Then he said that it would take too long to revise the Ordinance (it takes one month), and so he’s going to try to push it through. He’s very fortunate in that his house will not be one of those affected.
  2. The City claims that a 3-foot area is safer than having a 25-foot buffer next to the resident. This is absolutely wrong. In the 50 years my house has been surrounded by woods, not one person has come along, leaping from bush to bush and tree to tree like a cartoon character, sneaking up to break in. Why not? They’d have to carry their stolen goods back through the dark, falling over vines, caught up in briars, and possibly getting bitten by raccoons or foxes or snakes. As a long-time Police Officer familiar with our area explained to us, if he were a criminal he’d be much more attracted to the narrow space where he could ease along under cover of a solid fence than a wider area where his movement in the thin woods where it would be more difficult to move and where he would be easier to see in the time he would be exposed.
  3. The City has now started to claim that because the “nice” side of the fence is supposed to face out to the residents, the City has to intervene, in nanny-state fashion, to force the business to make maintenance arrangements that suit the City's idea of how the business should manage its private affairs. A respectful, limited-government approach would be to just include a statement in the law that the business must keep the fence maintained and leave it to the business to figure out how to do that in the most cost-effective manner.
  4. The City also claims that some woman in some other District created a disturbance by insisting the business next to her should repair its fence, and then refused them access to her land long enough to make the repairs. Therefore, says the City, people in Deer Park, where no such problem ever happened, must suffer this set-back rule. And the District where the problem actually happened – is its fence law being changed? Of course not. Their Council representative knows better than to try to micromanage every little dispute with an invasive law affecting people never even involved in such a dispute.
But you know what? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if somebody who lives too far from the business to be affected by the law thinks they’d feel safe in these conditions. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether somebody who doesn’t own one of the few business properties involved thinks it’s fine for the cost of doing business to be raised, not for any public purpose, but to micromanage private business affairs.

What matters is that a special law is being written, for no public purpose, targeted to affect a tiny group of people, all of whom object to it. If it happens to us, it could happen to you. Please help us stop this new trend now.