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Group Asks Council Change Fence Laws in College Park

The College Park Advisory Planning Commission (APC) held a Fence Ordinance Listening Session on December 3, 2015 in order to obtain public comment on the City Fence Ordinance.

At the session, Planning Department staff provided an overview of the City’s ordinance, which was followed by verbal testimony from five individuals. In addition, written comments were submitted by the Committee for a Better Environment (CBE) and two individuals.

Based on this information and follow-up discussions with APC members and staff, the APC has several recommendations for simplifying and streamlining the fence ordinance regulations in response to the comments that were received.

These are listed below for your consideration:
1. The definition of a fence, as written, is too long and confusing. Provide clear and concise definitions for the different types of fences mentioned (hedge, decorative fence and retaining wall).
2. Clearly state what does not constitute a fence and include decorative rocks or boulders in that statement.
3. Define a new fence type called “Garden Fence,” with the intent of enclosing vegetables. and protecting a home garden that grows fruits and/or
4. Allow garden fences in the front yard under certain circumstances. We recommend that these fences be allowed up to a height of 4 feet to enclose the garden but not the entire front yard (up to a certain percentage of the yard should be specified). Raised beds, poles, trellises, cold frames and other appurtenances that are part of the garden could be permitted. Garden fence materials should be limited to open wire mesh such as poultry netting (chicken wire) or rabbit guard. When the garden is no longer in use, it should be required to be dismantled.
5. Review the definitions of “yards” and align them with the definitions used by Prince George’s County to the extent possible.
6. Provide specific requirement for “incorporating openness and visibility” such as: “Spaces between fencing material (planks/pickets) shall be at least as wide as the planks/pickets (50%) opacity.”
7. Revise the section on retaining walls for clarity.
8. To further discourage chain link fences, the City should consider offering financial incentives to promote the use of other fence materials.
9. Reduce the number of criteria required to be met in order to obtain a variance. Zoning ordinance appeals only have three criteria while the fence ordinance has seven.
10. In general, reorganize the provisions of the ordinance for clarity so that the purpose and scope are listed first, regulations next and definitions last.
11. Include illustrative drawings and diagrams as part of the ordinance.

The Council plans to review these recommendations at a future Council meeting. Please let me know if you’ve any comments about these recommendations. Thank you.

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