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Council to consider fences and privacy on small corner lots

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Marcia Nelesen
September 20, 2013

JANESVILLE--Residents who own corner properties on small lots in older neighborhoods and want to build fences for privacy should take note of a public hearing  relating to required setbacks scheduled before the Janesville City Council on Monday.

Corner lots have two street frontages, resulting in a front yard and a corner side yard. Fences and hedges taller than 30 inches must be set back from both property lines 25 feet, which on smaller lots can leave more yard outside a fence than inside.

Two council members asked staff to study the issue after a resident's request.

A public hearing is scheduled during Monday's council meeting set for 7 p.m. in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.

Fences can be installed within the setback if the corner of the house is within the 25-foot setback and if the fence is built no closer to the property line than the house.

A fence can be built within the setback if it is at least 50 percent transparent, such as a chain-link fence.

“The prohibition against privacy fences in corner side yard setbacks tends to significantly limit a property owner's use of privacy fences to create areas of private outdoor yard space,” Brian Schweigl, associate planner, wrote in a memo to council.

Staff recommends the city allow privacy fences up to 6 feet tall on properties zoned R2 if the fence is at least 12 feet from the property line rather than the current 25 feet.

R2 zoning is used in older neighborhoods where lots are smaller and platted before 1950.

The plan commission forwarded a positive recommendation on the proposal on a 6-1 vote.

Residents can go to the zoning board of appeals for variances, which are typically granted. Often, the residents come before the board after the owner builds a fence and someone complains.

The cost to file a request for a variance is $200.



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