Front-yard privacy fences banned

Robert Smith

With Vice Mayor Rodger Milleson and councilor John Brazee dissenting, the Pawhuska City Council on March 12 adopted residential fence regulations that included a ban on front-yard privacy fences.

Councilor Steve Holcombe moved for approval and Mayor Roger Taylor and councilor Mark Buchanan voted with him to pass the measure. The new regulations were debated at the council’s February meeting but not approved.

Bill Todd, chair of the municipal Planning and Zoning Commission, offered comments this month in support of the changes. He did not appear at the February meeting, during which Holcombe had voiced a desire to have more information.

The new regulations will include a four-foot limit on front-yard fences. The front-yard fences must be built in such a way that there is visibility through them.

Backyard fences in residential neighborhoods may be as high as six feet tall and will be allowed to be privacy fences. Residents who want a residential fence that doesn’t meet the new standards can fill out paperwork and appear before the Board of Adjustments.

Code enforcement officer Steve Hughes explained that when existing residential fences that aren’t compliant with the new regulations reach a point where 50 percent or more of the fence must be rebuilt, the owner of the fence will be required to meet the new standards.

Councilors were told the changes were in part an attempt to address a safety issue — particularly concerning the safety of first responders such as firefighters and police officers; however, Hughes said he had talked with real estate agents who also had opinions about residential fences.

“They said there is nothing harder to sell than a house that has an unsightly fence in the front yard,” Hughes said of comments by real estate agents. Hughes also commented about problems with people stealing utilities.

Police Chief Rex Wikel acknowledged that fences can create safety problems for first responders but he also voiced hesitation to deprive homeowners of the right to control the type of fencing they use.

“We go into unsafe situations all the time,” Wikel said.