Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

March 5, 2013

Traverse City won't trespass on homeowners' fences

TRAVERSE CITY — Homeowners in Traverse City can continue to build fences of any type, height, or material they choose without a city permit.

Some residents had objected to the recent proliferation of 10-foot tall blockade-style fences and walls along Division Street. A letter from Pat and Dennis LaBelle in December had the city planning commission ready to climb all over the controversial question of erecting a fence ordinance. But aware of rickety support in the past for a fence ordinance, planners decided to get the city commission's perspective first.

"They don't want to spend a lot of time and energy (on it) because I guess there's some history of doing that and not having it accepted," said commissioner Jeanine Easterday, who also serves on the planning commission.

The city has no guidelines for fence building outside of restrictions on barbed wire. Planners have considered a fence ordinance four times since 1977 but never acted.

Easterday polled city commissioners Monday night about planners setting up standards for fences.

"I don't think so," Commissioner Mary Ann Moore replied. "We just did beekeeping and those people have to have fences. There's the Division (Street) noise, ones for the yard, privacy. I just think it's not something we should get into."

Other commissioners concurred.

"I don't think we want to deal with it," Commissioner Barbara Budros said.

Pat Labelle said she's not surprised and understands the commission's reluctance considering past efforts.

"It was worth a community discussion," LaBelle said. "I was just concerned because the large walls can occur anywhere in the city, not just on Division Street, and I don't think there is anything anyone can do once they go up."

Someone could build large cinder block walls along the property line and there is nothing a neighbor can do because the city doesn't have any residential standards, she said.

Some of the walls on Division Street that prompted the discussion have been very nicely done, LaBelle said, but others she termed "visual pollution."

"We are the exception to the rule because a lot of communities have ordinances," she said. "Commissions change, and maybe sometime in the future they will take a look at it again."

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