By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

A months-long discussion on fencing regulations in Whitewater has come to a close after a pair of recent pivotal maneuvers.

Moving forward, city residents interested in installing fences of 6 feet or higher in height will be required to first confer with neighbors. The stipulation will be not required for fences under 6 feet in height, though it will be recommended.

The city’s Plan and Architectural Review Commission favored the proposal Jan.14, and its recommendation advanced on to the decision-making Common Council a day later for final action.

“Things just go a lot more smoothly — in this case, and in life in general — if you talk to your neighbors,” City Planner Chris Munz-Pritchard said of the intent behind the revision at last week’s commission-level meeting.

The city will continue its longstanding practice of not requiring a permit for fencing, but proof of reaching out to neighbors might be required.

A neighbor’s input would not necessarily sway fence installation plans, though language in the revised ordinance calls on property owners to take neighbors’ comments into consideration.

In extenuating circumstances, City Attorney Wally McDonell said municipal officials might still step in and halt or modify fence installations, particularly if safety concerns arise.

“Ultimately, it could be determined it might not be reasonably compatible,” McDonell said. “But I think the intent is to come up with some way of coming up with an overall review. It all comes down to what’s reasonable.”

During the recent commission-level discussion, panelist Sherry Stanek asked why the city does not require residents pull a permit to have fences installed.

“Fences can be difficult,” McDonell said, in response. “There’s a lot of issues. To date, I haven’t heard a strong request for making fences a permitting process. But that’s ultimately a council decision.”

When tweaks to the ordinance were first discussed in November, commissioners delved into a number of other issues, including materials used for fencing and the call on them to be in good condition.

Other considerations included language on stain and finishing products, with the goal of uniformity.

Munz-Pritchard and other city officials acknowledged there have been neighbor disputes over fencing in the past, but the ultimate goal, according to representative involved in the review, is to clear up ambiguity and mitigate errors that have occurred in the past.

Prior to the now-in-place changes, Munz-Pritchard said, “I’ve had people pull permits, and they really shouldn’t have to pull permits for this.”

Throughout the recent discussions, commissioners roundly expressed a desire to strike a balance on the issue.

“We don’t want to micromanage, but we need some guidelines,” Greg Meyer, who chairs the Plan and Architectural Review Commission, said in November, when the discussion first began. “We’ve got to kind of watch our steps in it.”

 
 

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