Albany expands fencing restriction

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- After hearing comments from both neighbors and a property owner accused of exploiting a loophole in a city fencing ordinance Tuesday night, city commissioners voted to ban "farm" fencing in a 5-2 decision.

Ray Fajardo, who owns a house on the 3400 block of Forest Ridge Drive in the Woodbridge subdivision, told commissioners Tuesday night that he "needed to make a point" after being cited for erecting a chain link fence that violated an existing city ordinance.

Fajardo drew the ire of his neighbors when he erected a variety of permissible fencing instead -- a cattle gate and stretches of a two-foot-tall wood privacy fence, hog wire and chicken wire.

That anger spilled into the political arena last week when Commissioner Bob Langstaff asked the board to consider amending the city ordinance to expand the definition of banned fencing and walls to include chicken wire and hog wire in an attempt to close the loophole.

Tuesday, both contingents -- the neighbors and Fajardo -- addressed the commission in an attempt to convince officials why their respective positions were the best alternative.

William Lucas, who lives near Fajardo, pleaded with the City Commission to consider expanding the ordinance to ban the other types of fences to safeguard property values and neighborhood aesthetics.

"We believe ... that our property values will diminish," Lucas said. "It affects the entire neighborhood."

Fajardo, on the other hand, said that it's his right as a property owner to erect a fence if he wishes, and that he would like to open his front yard up to his German shepherds by installing a vinyl fence.

"I'm also concerned about property values. Who wants property values to go down?" he said. "All I want to do is put up my vinyl fence. ... It should be my right to do that."

Lucas called the fence "spiteful," a sentiment City Manager Alfred Lott followed up on in questioning Fajardo.

"So why did you put the fence up?" Lott asked.

"I felt like I needed to make a point," Fajardo said. "I'll take it down if I'm allowed to put up my vinyl fence."

The current ordinance bans chain link fences from front yards only and grandfathers fences that were erected before January 2009, when the Zoning Ordinances were overhauled by the commission.

In the commission's pre-briefing, Commissioner Roger Marietta suggested a moratorium for 90 days on construction of any new residential fences until city staff could research the issue and bring a comprehensive list of findings and recommendations to the commission.

During the regular meeting that followed, Commissioner Tommie Postell suggested similar action, saying he would like that the item be tabled until staff could bring a more thorough list of proposed fencing that would be banned or allowed. Postell and Commissioner Jon Howard opposed the motion to change the ordinance.