The Springfield City Council has asked the building and zoning committee to create a privacy fence ordinance for the city.
Wendell Arnsdorff, the city building inspector, asked the council to consider an ordinance that addresses safety concerns of fences and shrubbery. Arnsdorff said he was asked about a privacy fence being placed in a yard beyond the setback from the road.
“In most cases, it could present a public safety hazard for people entering the roadways adjacent driveways, or even the driveways of the house,” he said.
Arnsdorff said he went around the city and did not see a big problem. He said residents tend to have privacy fences in the backyard, not the front.
Arnsdorff said there was only one fence ordinance in Springfield and that is in relation to height.
“If you don’t have an ordinance and someone was to put one up, and bring it before council you make a ruling on it,” he said. “They’re not happy. They’re going to start hollering favoritism for the neighbor.”
Public Works Director Lowell Morgan said he also wanted the council to be aware of some issues that cause a public safety problem.
“I know once before we denied a fence in a front yard,” Morgan said.
He said he thought the fence was denied because it was on a corner lot and would block the view of an intersection.
Morgan said he thought the council should also include shrubbery in the ordinance.
“You don’t have to put up a fence to obstruct,” he said. “The problem that we have is you can’t see to get out on the street from this particular residence. It is a safety problem.”
Morgan said several people from the city have gone to assess the problem.
“We can’t go into someone’s yard under the current guidelines and force them to cut the shrubbery, so the neighbors coming in and out of their driveways can see,” he said.
Morgan said he would like to see the council approve an ordinance, and will help in any way he can to draft it.
Morgan said he thought the height limit of shrubbery should be left to the discretion of the city.
“I think if the city can substantiate that you have a safety issue then the ordinance should allow the forcing of trimming of that shrubbery,” he said.
Fire Chief Edwin Rahn asked the council to consult the fire department as well while the ordinance is being drafted.
Councilman Kenny Usher said a fence or shrubbery should be allowed if it does not create a safety concern by obstructing the vision of motorists. Morgan said that would be why the ordinance should state the city’s discretion.
“The city would have to prove their point in order to force the issue,” Morgan said. “We need some kind of leverage that says you can do that in a case where it’s needed.”
Mayor Barton Alderman said he has visited the location Morgan was referring to and saw a need for something to be done for safety.
“We will get ordinances from some of our neighboring communities, and turn it over to our building and zoning committee, and come back with our own ordinance,” Alderman said. “We do owe it to the citizens to protect your safety, and not only that but protect the neighborhood. too.”