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Dickinson to require fencing permit to enforce code

High fences on corner lots are already against city code because they obstruct the view for drivers as they meet the intersection, but that hasn't stopped residents from building them.

High fences on corner lots are already against city code because they obstruct the view for drivers as they meet the intersection, but that hasn't stopped residents from building them.

The city will start requiring an inexpensive fencing permit for anyone wishing to build a fence on their property, mostly as a means to educate homeowners about the city's fencing requirements, Community Development Director Ed Courton said.

"Many people are installing the fences along the secondary street at, or adjacent to, the sidewalk, which is inconsistent to our setback standards," Courton said. "The reason we have the setback standard is to protect the view for motorists who are at that stop sign."

Fences lining the property can be no higher than 4 feet. If a higher fence is desired, it must be set back 15 feet.

Homeowners or fencing companies would be required to bring basic plans to City Hall when applying for a permit so city staff would be able to make sure fences meet city code, Courton said.

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"The fence permit that I'm proposing is going to be very simple," Courton said. "Fill out the application, very basic information, come to the front counter and then show us a very rough site plan that shows that you meet our setbacks."

The fee for a fence permit will be $20, Courton said. Any fences already built that do not meet the code would be grandfathered in, he said.

"Whenever those fences are either upgraded or damaged in some way, a permit would be needed to fix them and at that time they would be required to meet our current regulations," Courton said.

Police officers have the authority to alert the city forester when they see foliage obstructing the view of street signs or other traffic hazards due to a lack of property owner maintenance, Dickinson Police Capt. Joe Cianni said.

"Anytime there's an intersection that's known to be more dangerous or have obstructed vision, we actually have less accidents because people are more cautious when they're entering those intersections, or at least that's how it seems," Cianni said.

It is legal for drivers to stop behind the line and then slowly creep out into an intersection, Cianni said.

Fences are put up for safety of pets and children just as much as they are put up for privacy, City Commissioner Shirley Dukart said.

"A lot of our residents have large dogs and they're certainly going to jump over a four-foot fence," Dukart said.

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The 2 feet can be the difference for families between a runaway dog or a child hit by a car after chasing a ball into the street, Courton said. Higher fences are still allowed 15 feet from the sidewalk.

The code gets harder to enforce as more people break it, Courton said.

"Many people are presuming that that must be the regulation, therefore I can do that," Courton said. "It's very difficult to stop because to put up a fence may only take a couple days to do that."

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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