Saranac Lake Board of Trustees
Saranac Lake Village Board members unveiled changes to the local fence law and decided to re-work the law’s language based on comments heard during the May 29 public hearing.
Forest Hill Avenue resident Ona Allen told board members she brought the fence issue to the village about a month ago because she tried to build a fence without a permit, and she has a couple of problems with the new law that are “a little bit punitive for the person trying to build the fence.” That includes the requirement of a 2-foot setback.
Village resident Rich Shapiro said the law may be “overreaching” in banning some fencing that he feels should be acceptable, such as temporary fencing for vegetable gardens to keep out deer and other animals. He also had an issue with the height requirement.
“In order for the deer fence to be effective, it’s got to be 6, 7, 8 feet high,” Shapiro said. “I don’t think this was the intention of the law. The way it’s written now, we have to pull down the fences in our vegetable garden.”
He asked the Village Board members to amend the law to protect vegetable garden fencing.
Trustee Elias “Allie” Pelletieri also had an issue with the height requirement of 6 feet and that deer fencing around vegetable gardens would have to be taken down. In all, he said the new law has too much regulation.
“I think to say ‘any wall’ is just too regulated for me to accept,” Pelletieri said. “This started out as two paragraphs … and now we’re down to a page and a third.”
Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said that he brought the fence law before the board now, as opposed to when the new land use codes would be amended, because of the issues raised by Ona Allen and her fence situation. It is a compilation of some issues that have been raised over the last few years. But he wanted to make sure that there were more specifics in the fence law.
The current fence law “is far too vague,” Evans said. “In the end, it causes more confusion and resources to administer than a law that’s written a little bit more definitely.”
Trustee Paul Van Cott said there needs to be some reasonable fencing regulation in the village.
“You don’t want 30-foot-high fences just because neighbors don’t get along,” Van Cott said. “And you don’t want people throwing up just fences made out of anything, just because they can. We’re trying t
Provide for a village that is welcoming and attractive to people who might want to live here. And the more you can be specific about it the better, because then people know what is possible.”
Village Board members tabled the motion to approve the fence law pending revisions of the law, specifically regarding garden fencing, and will discuss the amended law at the next meeting. In order to approve the amended law, they’ll need to hold another public hearing.
Proposed Fence Law
Key points of the proposed fence law, as presented to the Village Board on May 29, include:
•Prior to the construction of any fence or wall, a building permit shall be obtained.
•All fences shall be constructed of a common type such as split rail, picket, chain link, or stockade. Fences shall have the most pleasant or decorative side facing adjacent properties.
•Fence height shall be measured from the lowest point of the natural grade of the property.
•No fence over 4 feet in height shall be erected or maintained in the architectural front yard. The “architectural front yard” shall be defined as the yard facing the side of the building containing the architectural main entrance to the house. For a waterfront lot, the “architectural front yard” shall be defined as the yard facing the street.
•No fence over 6 feet in height shall be erected or maintained in any rear yard or side yard; no fence over 5 feet in height shall be erected or maintained in the front yard not considered to be the architectural front yard.
•Fences erected or maintained in the side yard of a corner lot shall not exceed 5 feet in height.
•No stockade-type or privacy fence shall be allowed in any front yard or the side yard of a corner lot.
•All fences shall be maintained in a safe, sound and upright condition. No fence shall be erected which will create a safety problem for people using the public right-of-way.
•Fences shall not be erected within 2 feet of a publicly owned curb or sidewalk and shall not be erected within a public right-of-way.
•On industrial or commercial properties, proposed fences not in conformance with the provisions of Subsection C (permit) shall be approved by the Planning Board under the site plan review.
•No solid fences over 26 inches in height shall be permitted in the triangular area formed by the intersecting street lines and straight lines joining the street lines at points which are 20 feet in distance from the point of intersection measured along the street lines. Measurement of height shall be from the grade of the abutting top of curb or from the crown of the abutting road, if there is no curbing. Split-rail fences, cyclone fences or other similarly open fences are permitted in the triangular area and are permitted to be 36 inches in height, provided that they do not create a traffic hazard and block visibility. No hedge over 3 feet in height shall be planted or maintained in this same triangular area.
•Barbed wire, ,electric or similar materials or devices may only be used in conjunction with or as part of any fence for limited industrial and utility purposes. Any proposed fence that includes use of such materials shall require site plan review.
•No fence shall be permitted which is expressly designed with the intent to injure or maim anyone who attempts to climb such a fence.
•Fences and walls shall not be erected in or encroach upon a public right-of-way.
•Existing stone retaining walls shall be preserved to maximum extent practicable. Prior to the demolition or removal of a stone retaining wall, a demolition permit shall be obtained. The code enforcement officer shall only issue a demolition upon determination that the existing wall is unsafe and cannot be reasonably repaired.
•If any existing stone retaining wall must be replaced, it shall be replaced with similar natural or manufactured stone materials.
•New walls shall be constructed of natural or manufactured stone materials, or covered with a decorative finish in earth-toned colors.