City updates ordinance on fences

By Kellen Olshefski


The City of Elkhorn Common Council voted in favor amending the city’s ordinance on yards, specifically regarding allowable materials, at its Jan. 15 meeting.

Following a motion to waive the first reading of the ordinance, City Zoning Administrator Allison Schwark – in attendance via Zoom – explained the topic was brought before the plan commission and council is because the city’s zoning department has historically permitted specific types of materials for fences and sheds or accessory buildings, though the city’s code never actually spoke to what is or isn’t allowed.

Schwark said she wanted to amend the ordinance so that those specific materials are listed in the city’s code, allowing for stronger enforcement if a dispute between a property owner and the city were to ever arise.

In crafting the amended ordinance with Schwark, City Attorney Ward Phillips said they chose language that not only addressed those specific materials for both open and solid fences, but also gives the zoning administrator or plan commission the authority to make judgment calls about consistency without having to return to council to amend the ordinance in the future.

“Building materials are always changing, and what wasn’t going to be something that would have been acceptable to the city now is,” Phillips said.

For example, Phillips said he was talking with City Administrator Adam Swann prior to the meeting about how while metal sheds of the past might not have been acceptable by city standards, there’s now many high-quality metal buildings property owners can purchase.

Following a motion to approve waiving the first reading, a motion to approve Ordinance 24-01 was passed unanimously by the council.

Under the ordinance, allowed open fence materials include picket, chain link, wood, vinyl, wire mesh, wrought iron, aluminum, metal and lattice, while solid fence materials are limited to wood, metal or vinyl. No barbed wire, razor wire, electrically charged fences, chicken wire (except for gardening purposes) or other dangerously constructed fences are allowed in residential zoning districts.

As previously mentioned, the ordinance allows includes language that allows the zoning administrator or plan commission to approve other types of fencing, so long as the requested fencing is consistent with the requirements of the ordinance and constructed of “good quality” materials. If approved, those new, approved materials, styles or designs will be listed in the Zoning Administration Office and available to the public.


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