County Commission sees contention over recent fencing regulation

 Following the items planned for in the agenda, last week’s County Commission moved into the new business segment, wherein a resident from District 3 was sponsored by County Commissioner Kate Guin to speak about the challenges he is currently facing under the recently approved ordinance that all newly constructed fences are to be at least 12 feet from whatever road they are adjacent to. This discussion led to some contention among the commission, and the exchange revealed a variance in opinion as to now-codified regulation.

The guest speaker was a man by the name of Darryl Gray, and he opened by explaining that, in late August, an automobile crashed through his agricultural fence. According to Gray, the vehicle that went through his fence actually came into contact with it twice over the course of the accident, on the second time snagging its mesh and damaging 300 feet of fencing.

Gray went about repairing his fence following the incident, completing the repairs on October 11. Shortly thereafter, Gray’s fence was inspected by the county, and he was notified that his fence was not in compliance with the ordinance mandating fences to be 12 feet from the road. Gray explained that he was not aware of the regulation while his fence was under repair, and that his current understanding is that existing fences are grandfathered in.

Based on Gray’s presentation, the key question appeared to be whether or not a fence that is being replaced due to substantial damage beyond the owner’s control is subject to the new regulations, particularly as such construction can be financially taxing to the property-owner.

However, the scope of the discussion was broadened by the words of a second guest-speaker by the name of Wes Beverly, who gave the opinion that the new regulations are overly prohibitive, restricting aesthetic measures such as flower-beds along the side of the road. Additionally, Beverly noted that the purchase of a variance from the regulation comes at the price of $150, a fact he described as “just not right.”

After the guests had finished speaking, Mayor Bill Newman responded, stating that he recalled finding the language of the new ordinance to be reasonable when it was passed in June, but that he feels not enough residents of the county are aware of it and that there isn’t a protocol in place for identifying what is a “repair” and what is a “new fence.” With this comment, Mayor Newman also thanked the men for participating in the meeting.

A motion was then made to leave Gray’s fence as is, to officially consider the reconstruction of his fence a repair. However, Highway Department director Tim Gill then joined the conversation, asking Commission Donny Ogle – who made the motion – if he had actually seen the fence in question. According to Gill, Gray’s fence is “right on the road – there’s a light pole right beside the pavement.” In short, Gill would go on to say that there have been complaints made about the obstructive nature of the fence, and recommended that all of the commissioners have a look at the fence for themselves before casting any sort of vote.

The conversation then became a matter of safety and regulation vs fairness to the farmers in our community. However, after some discussion, Gray’s fence was allowed to remain as is until the distinction between repair and replacement is more explicitly codified.