Palma Ceia fights to keep its fences
Many sit on the public right of way, but residents want them to stay.
By Alexandra Zayas
Published November 24, 2006
It started last spring as a squabble between two neighbors. One turned in the other for a code enforcement violation. The other retaliated by calling the city about a private fence on the public right of way.
"When the code enforcement officer came out to look at that fence, the homeowner said, 'You can't enforce this against me. Look at this entire area,' " City Council member John Dingfelder said.
So the officer cited more than a dozen residents in Palma Ceia and New Suburb Beautiful for the same violation. Many called Dingfelder to complain.Dingfelder, along with the city code enforcement and zoning departments, determined that encroaching fences were an endemic problem citywide.
"I think people probably did not know where their property lines were," said zoning manager Gloria Moreda.
Dingfelder asked city officials to hold off on violation hearings while Moreda looks into modifying the right-of-way ordinance so that every homeowner doesn't have to remove a fence they've had for years.
City workers will examine the individual violations to see if the encroaching fence creates traffic visibility problems or interferes with city utilities, Moreda said. If they do, the fences will have to come down. If they don't, they might be able to stay.
The fence issue came to light at the same time Seminole Heights residents fought citations for having retaining walls in the public right of way.
Council members recently decided to suspend further citations of the retaining walls, which neighbors say protect their properties from erosion. Moreda's ordinance will also apply to retaining walls in Seminole Heights.Moreda plans to finish the ordinance in the next couple of months and hold public workshops in January. She hopes to present the changes to the City Council in February. A final vote on the issue could come in March or April.
"We want people to understand this is not their property," Moreda said. "This is public right of way. We'll allow you to use it as long as we don't need it."