Written by Margaret Whitely Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00
At the last Town of North Hempstead Meeting the subject of fence height was still very much in the forefront of the discussion, held over from a hearing on Oct. 5.
Councilman Fred Pollack, who originally proposed the 6-foot fence height said, “This hearing was actually held on Oct. 5. We closed the hearing and reserved decision until tonight. I received a large number of emails and I actually got two or three real letters, which is very interesting. We have had a variety of discussions and as a result I am going to make some amendments.
“The amendment I am going to read is two pages and is complicated. The original proposal was to raise the allowable fence height for the sections around the house from 4 feet to 6 feet. The amendment that I am going to offer accomplishes the following: The distance from the front of the building to the side yard would continue to be a maximum of 4 feet.
The distance from the front of the house to the end of the house on the side, would be 5 feet. The distance along the rear yard would be -eet.
“The following are a few of the exceptions: A 6-foot fence would be permitted when:
1-Where a residential district immediately abuts a business or industrial business.
2-When a residential property immediately abuts a road maintained by the State of New York or by Nassau County and where the residential property does not face the said road.
3-Where a residential property immediately abuts property dedicated as parkland by the State of New York, by the County of Nassau and by the Town of North Hempstead or by an Incorporated Village.
4-Where a residential property immediately abuts a recharge basin.
5-When there is a pool involved.”
Supervisor Jon Kaiman said, “Right now the town allows a 4-foot fence around the entire house. If you want any higher you have to go before the Board of Zoning and Appeals and get a variance. And, as someone pointed out at the last meeting, the BZA generally grants a variance where the side of the house would be 4 feet, the backyard 5 feet and the rear property line 6 feet.”
Councilman Dwyer said, “My issue is this, whenever we put a building code into place and some of my other colleagues were telling me, well, we will make it 6 feet and maybe people will make their backyard fences 5 feet, instead of 6 feet. Whenever we change a code the maximum that people can get, that’s what they take.”
Dwyer continuted, “If I’m in a backyard with 6 foot fences, you can’t see your neighbor. With a 5- foot fence you can see your neighbor. I have an issue of not being able to see my neighbor. I would like to hear more of public discussion.”
The board then ruled discussion would be allowed on the amendment and Marietta DiCamillo, who is the president of the North Lakeville Civic Association, came to the podium and said, “First of all the civic association is against changing the code for fencing. I think that this amendment is probably one of the most confusing ones that I have heard in my life. I’m sitting here and I heard it twice and I think I understand it. The definition of where your house starts and where it begins. Believe me, I don’t see why I should put myself into a cubicle that gives me 6 feet and 5 feet and 4 feet in the front. I think it detracts from the suburban character that was decided years ago that said a 4 feet fence should be it. I can understand and appreciate where there is a pool involved. I am really going to be upset if my neighbors decide on my 4-foot fence to construct 6-foot fences on both sides and that would be 2 feet above my 4 feet one and I would probably not have too many kind things to say about this change. I would hope that the town board would listen to what I am saying and not change it.
‘My community expressed that they do not wish to see the fencing height change. They are happy with the size that exists and I can’t tell you that a million people in the civic, but there were a good 35 long-standing community members. The senior people especially are afraid that with a 6 foot fence there could be people hiding behind it and it creates a safety issue.”
Pollack countered, “People feel there is more protection with a 6 foot fence.”
DiCamillo said, “I’m not so sure about that. I guess you could argue both ways. All I can say is that the community of the North Lakeville Civic does not want this changed.”
The next speaker was Jim McHugh, President of Parks Civic New Hyde Park He said, “I met with my board last night about several things, this being one of them. They had varying opinion. But generally speaking they did not want anything higher than 4 feet. My board did not have as much of any issue with the backyard as they did with the side yard. They didn’t want to look out their window and see a 6 foot or 5 foot fence. The compromise position was 5 feet, because they did not want to be totally fenced in. They wanted to keep it 4 feet along the building lines. The backyard, they were open for compromise.”
Kaiman said, “The BZA generally grants 4 feet in the front, 5 feet on the sides and 6 feet in the back.”
A resident from Roslyn Heights said he was very much in favor of having a 6 foot fence around his entire property because he has a “dog” issue with one of his neighbors and this would protect his son.
He said, “I live on a 100 foot x 100 foot lot and I don’t want to see my neighbor. It’s not really about being boxed in, but providing protection for your yard.
“I think it would look ugly to have 4 feet in front and then 5 feet and then 6 feet in that back, it is not uniform and I think it would look ugly. I simply want to have my own backyard in peace and quiet.
“I went through the process, I filed the papers and went to the Board of Zoning and Appeals and was denied. I think that this is a reasonable solution.”
Marianna Wohlgemuth, who is the President of the Lakeville Estates Civic Association said, “Most of the homes in New Hyde Park and North New Hyde Park area are on 40 x 100 plots and to install a 6 foot fence would be too confining.”
A resident from the North Lakeville said, “I want a 5-foot fence in my backyard and just because you allow a 6 foot fence, I want a 5 foot fence. Just because you will allow a 6-foot doesn’t mean that people will only want a 6 foot fence, they want what they want for their own reasons.
“I take a three mile walk everyday and there are many fences that are taller than 4 feet all around the area. Not only fences, but bushes around beautiful homes on Hillside Avenue. There is a wall and then are bushes on top of it amounting to an 8 foot total. What’s the difference if it’s a white vinyl fence or bushes. I think the white fence is a lot neater. I never thought about the dogs, but there is a dog that barks and his paws are over this 4-foot fence. I’m frightened everyday I walk by this dog. I am waiting for the day he will jump the fence. I think this is a wise amendment. If you approve 95 percent of these variances than this is a moot point.”
Pollack pointed out that this amendment would eliminate having to go through the variance process at the BZA. I tell you, people think we should stay at 4 feet.
Marianna Wohlgemuth, said, “My comment is, have you made accommodations for a corner property.”
Pollack said, “The corner still has two fronts. That has not changed.”
Dwyer said, “We have analyzed this for six months and the BZA for at least 10 years. They came up for the formula that worked.
Pollack said, “I don’t like their formula and don’t agree with it.”
Kaiman said, ‘I think the BZA comes up with rational resolutions. Allowing something above 4 feet. It might make sense to put this over for another meeting. So, let’s put it over for one more time.”
Dwyer said, “I like seeing my neighbors and a 6-foot fence would not permit that. The BZA is the proponent and the opponent and it is a formula that has worked for both sides.”
Pollack said, “Well no, it has worked for the BZA, but not necessarily worked for the residents who object to the variances . But not for the vast majority who don’t even bother to go before the BZA because they know what they will get and they don’t want it. We are not bound by the BZA. I don’t agree with what the BZA does. What they do is follow a formula and they are not responsive to what they hear.”
Pollack said, “I will withdraw the amendment and move to continue the reserved decision until the December 14 meeting.”
It was voted on by the entire board.
Retired Commissioner of Parks Gerry Olsen Appointed as Consultant
At the same meeting recently retired Town of North Hempstead Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Gerard Olsen was appointed as a consultant to the parks department for at least a year and perhaps more. However, before voting on this resolution, supervisor Kaiman and all the councilpersons lauded the work that Olsen has accomplished at the department for the last 40 years.
As mentioned previously, the next meeting has been set for Tuesday, December 14 at North Hempstead Town Hall, 220 Plandome Road, Manhasset.