A new fencing ordinance is heading toward the Detroit Lakes City Council on May 11.
The new rules, recommended unanimously by the city Planning Commission on April 22, included an approved and prohibited materials list for fence construction and diagrams explaining fence height requirements for three different property types. The ordinance also includes a "grandfather" clause, which would allow residents to keep their existing fences under the old ordinance.
"It's a legal, non-conforming, use, so they would have the right to maintain that fence indefinitely," said Larry Remmen, community development director for Detroit Lakes, during the commission meeting. "But once the fence was removed for more than a year, then they would have to replace it under this ordinance."
Under the new fence rules, stone, brick, finished wood, vinyl, metal, or chain link, are the only approved materials for fence construction. Prohibited materials include: agricultural fencing materials, electrically charged elements, barbed wire, cables, wire, or used materials.
However, Remmen said, if a resident was able to show an undue burden in conforming to the new ordinance, they could apply for a variance through the city's committee process.
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"If it's a variance, they have to explain why they have a practical difficulty for not meeting the ordinance, so I think it would be somewhat difficult to do that," he said. "I think if we ran into something … that we thought was an okay material, and it wasn't on our list, we would probably look at amending our list if we had a significant number of people requesting that."
The ordinance also includes diagrams depicting the various fence height requirements for three different lot types.
A standard lot allows for a 6-foot fence in the rear yard, but the fence's height must decrease to 3 feet, or a 4-foot with chain link materials, when it crosses the house into the front yard.
A lakefront property does not allow fences on the lakeside within the shore impact zone, which can vary based on the property location, but then allows a 3-foot fence to the front of the house. The fence height can then be raised to 6 feet in the rear yard, but must then be reduced back down to 3 feet within 30 feet of the property line on the street side.
A corner lot at the intersection of two different streets, allows a 3-foot fence, or a 4-foot with chain link materials, in the front yard, but doesn't allow any fencing within 25 feet of the intersection to allow for driver visibility of oncoming traffic. Once the fence passes into the rear yard of the property, the fence height can be raised to 6 feet until it approaches the rear lot line. The fence height must decrease to 3 feet within 20 feet of the rear lot line.
Language was also included in the new ordinance requiring maintenance and repair of damaged fencing to avoid penalties from the city.
The new ordinance states: "Every fence shall be maintained in a condition of reasonable repair and shall not be allowed to become or remain in a condition of disrepair, or danger. Every damaged or missing element of any fence, or wall, shall be repaired, or replaced, immediately. Any fence, or wall, which is, or has become, or remains, in a state of disrepair is a public nuisance and may be subject to abatement."
The proposed rules will first make their way to the city's community development committee meeting on May 10 at 5 p.m., at the Historic Holmes Theatre for discussion, and potential recommendation, to the full City Council during their regular meeting the following day. If approved by the council, the changes would go into effect June 8.