Lauderdale reviewing rules for front yard fences

By Anne Holzman

The city of Lauderdale is in the middle of a yearlong moratorium on approving new front yard fences while it is drafting new rules that would govern them. But final consideration could be delayed because of COVID-19.

In mid-April, City Administrator Heather Butkowski told the Bugle that due to the COVID-19 crisis, it’s not clear when or how the council would be able to deal with the fence ordinance. The moratorium on new front yard fence permits remains in effect until October.

Following City Council discussions earlier this year, Lauderdale staff has proposed adding language that would bolster the current ordinance. Current rules require City Council approval of fence permits but do not spell out combinations of materials needed and permitted heights and setbacks that affect sightlines from the street.

The City staff’s proposal may also address whether and how existing properties would be required to bring front yard fencing into line with updated language.

The fencing issue arose last September after the Council approved a front yard fence for a homeowner on Eustis Street. That action prompted questions from other residents who voiced interest in front yard fences. The Council, at that time, said the city might be legally liable for not having more specific rules in place and adopted the fence moratorium at its Oct. 8 meeting.

In a survey of neighboring cities, Launderdale’s staff found most municipalities allow front yard fences but also limit them to, among other things, three to four feet in height to ensure traffic safety. Cities in the survey included Minneapolis, St. Anthony, St. Paul and Roseville.

Ordinances from nearby communities vary as to specificity and content. For example, Minneapolis sets fence height generally at three feet but allows four feet for certain open, decorative fence materials. Meanwhile, St. Anthony requires new or like new materials and no more than two types of fencing materials.

The Council’s Feb. 25 meeting materials pertaining to the front yard fence ordinance included considerations for package and mail delivery, access by emergency responders and whether front yard fences could affect nearby property owners. There are also houses in Lauderdale whose front yard setbacks may not match regu­lations, which likely would be addressed in the new rules.

Information packets and materials from prior council meetings can be found on the Lauderdale city’s website under the “Council” tab on the left side of the home page. Videos of Council meetings are also archived by CTV and can be accessed by a link from the Council page.

Anne Holzman is a former St. Anthony Park resident and regular freelance writer for the Bugle.

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