Fences make for good neighbors

Bay Village residents are currently grappling with the issue of privacy versus obstructed views, and whether aesthetic issues take precedence over homeowners’ rights to make decisions about their property. The main discussions by city officials focus on backyard fencing issues: (1) increasing the height of a backyard fence from 4 feet to 5 feet, requiring 75 percent transparency for any fence higher than 4 feet; and (2) expanding the length of a privacy screen from 32 feet to 40 feet and allowing an additional 8 feet of decreasing transitional screen in either direction.

The current law limits the height of a backyard fence to 4 feet. Backyard privacy screens cannot exceed 6 feet, 4 inches in height, and the privacy screen cannot exceed 32 feet in any direction.

Bay Village is virtually alone in its restrictions. Other nearby cities allow 6-foot backyard fences. Rocky River, for example, allows backyard privacy screens of 6 feet, with less than 25 percent transparency on not more than two sides of an area.

Residents have started an online petition that currently has more than 200 signatures (150 are verified Bay Village residents) to allow high backyard fences. The reasons cited include privacy and safety for children and for pets.

On the other side of the fence, some residents say the beauty and small-town feel of Bay Village would be marred by residents walling themselves up in their back yards. Also, those lucky enough to live next to Lake Erie are justifiably concerned that high fences will block views of the lake for them and for passersby.

But to state the obvious, the beauty and charm of Rocky River, Westlake, and our other cities are not watered down because residents are allowed 6-foot-high backyard fences. Ninety percent of the time, you can’t even see back yards. Even lakefront homes with fences don’t impede the view of those visiting our beaches and waterfront parks. A drive on Lake Road provides blocked views of Lake Erie. But not from fences. From houses that keep getting larger and closer together. But that’s a different issue.

The fears of higher fences cited by Bay Village officials are not held up by facts. The desire to protect children and pets should take priority over aesthetics, assuming you believe the aesthetics are harmed by 2 more feet of fence.

As for residents’ desire for privacy on their own property, well that’s not a bad thing either. Everyone needs their “calm, private” space.

Let’s hope Bay Village officials stop protesting and allow homeowners the safety and privacy they need and deserve.

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