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Sherman Fence Laws To Be Reviewed Following Complaints

SHERMAN — The old saying goes, “Good fences make good neighbors,” but that isn’t always the case.

The Sherman Village Zoning Board is currently reviewing its law regarding fences, in part because of complaints from residents.

“At this point, we really need to clear up the law,” Mayor Colleen Meeder said, “but that is going to take some time.”

The need to review the law was emphasized at a recent meeting of the zoning board when Sherman residents Heath and Ronnie Reed of East Main Street said they received a citation stating they were in violation of Section 616 of the village aoning law and their fence had to be taken down.

After receiving several complaints, the zoning officer sent a notice to both the Reeds and to Joe Piszczek, also of East Main Street.

“When we get complaints, Greg (Gormley, zoning enforcement officer) has to respond,” Meeder said. “Pets, privacy, or conflicts with neighbors are the most common reasons for putting up a fence; all three are applicable in this case.”

Section 616 of the zoning law states that “All fences, walls, and/or hedges shall be located no closer than 2 feet from adjacent property lines. This rule can be waived if agreed to in writing by adjacent property owners.”

“Both adjacent properties … have some type of fencing on the property line,” Meeder said. “This is prohibited unless it is exempt for agricultural use.”

Meeder pointed out that the current law is limited in addressing all the needs and definitions for agricultural use, temporary seasonal use, corner lots, and distance from the right-of-way.

“In fact, Section 616, Fences and Walls, is the most common reason to convene a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals,” she said.

The Reeds agreed that the law is unclear.

“Dogs, cats, horses and cattle are all listed together. Are these all agricultural?” they asked.

Meeder responded that the way the law is written, anything that is used to keep back a domesticated animal is considered agricultural and is exempt, she said.

A 2-foot variance from the property line is under consideration because of the maintenance complications it presents, Meeder said.

“We’re looking into removing the 2-foot variance from the law,” she said. “And Greg is looking at suspending the enforcement of the law.”

Meeder went on to say that the height of 4 feet may be appropriate in the front yard for visibility and character, but a standard 6 foot fence should be permitted in the side and backyards without a special use permit. Currently, Section 616 states that “Fences shall be allowed up to 4 feet in height by right. Fences above 4 feet in height shall require a Special Use Permit and consideration will be given to visibility from adjacent properties, light and air movement, etc.”

Meeder went on to say that “all of this requires careful consideration by the Steering Committee, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Municipal Zoning Board before an amendment to the law is proposed.”

Based on the unclear nature of Section 616 of the village zoning law and the recommendation of the zoning enforcement officer, the village Zoning Board, made up of village trustees, decided to suspend the violations for the fencing issue on East Main Street while Section 616 is under review by the Steering Committee and Planning Board.

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