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On the fence

By Staff | Feb 16, 2015

The sixth time was the charm when it came to finalizing a hotly debated ordinance in the City of Wells.

The City Council, at a meeting held on Feb. 9, scheduled a public hearing for the Fence and Landscaping Ordinance before approving some changes again.

The ordinance was brought to Planning and Zoning in September when it was decided to clean up some of the wording of the ordinance and change the distance of the setbacks for fences and other landscaping items on residential property.

What had been an 8-foot setback was changed to 10 feet. The changes to the ordinance were reviewed by the Planning and Zoning board and then brought to the council for approval.

The changes had been approved, however, that did not sit well with some Wells residents.

There were 15 people in attendance for the public hearing and six residents stood to address the council in the course of the meeting held last Monday night.

The Fence and Landscaping Ordinance regulates how far a person can build a fence or other landscaping items from alleyways, street corners and boulevards.

Brenda Weber, of Wells, had attended the council meeting and a number of Planning and Zoning meetings where this ordinance had been discussed and was present at the meeting held last Monday.

“Robin (Leslie) said at a Planning and Zoning board meeting, ‘I?just decided to round it to an even 10,’ and everyone went along with it,”?Weber said.

Weber continued, saying that exceptions should be made for the lots in the older parts of Wells where many of the garages and fences, which have been grandfathered in, are located closer to two feet from the alleyway.

Council member John Herman explained that if they begin making exceptions, issues could arise with allowing people to build closer to alleyways and street corners.

“I know we have had complaints about garages and fences getting wrecked when the city employees have to move snow in the winters,”?he said.

City administrator Robin Leslie and Planning and Zoning board member Larry Majeski explained that prior to suggesting changes to an ordinance, they go through a lot of research.

“I’ve been on Planning and Zoning for more than 18 years now and anything we thought we should change in the ordinance was sent to the League of Minnesota Cities,”?Majeski said. “We also called around to other cities similar to Wells to research what they do for their ordinances.”

He added that the last time the ordinance was changed was in 1973 and prior to that, there had not been any setbacks enforced.

“We try to treat everyone the same but we are going to step on some toes and I’m sorry for that,”?Majeski said.

After nearly an hour of discussion on the ordinance the council voted to approve the setback at the original eight feet.

The council also had a first reading of a new ordinance regarding accessory buildings and structures.

However, since it was a new ordinance no action was taken.

“It would not hurt to bring it to another meeting to give you guys time to think about it,” Leslie said.