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Janesville City Council clarifies pool-fencing ordinance

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
November 16, 2011
— When is a pool not a pool?

Apparently, when it has fish in it.


The Janesville City Council clarified an ordinance Monday that staff had incorrectly used to regulate koi ponds.


The council also rejected a recommendation to require fencing around shallower, temporary swimming pools.


A resident earlier this year contacted council members and asked that they reduce from 5 feet to 4 feet the minimum height for fences required around pools 30 inches or taller.


Staff agreed, but added the recommendation that fences also be required for pools as shallow as 24 inches.


The depth was chosen because it was most similar to the majority of comparable cities, said Gale Price, community development director. He said experts believe a barrier is the most significant factor to prevent drowning.


Councilman Tom McDonald on Monday night made the motion to keep the depth for fenced pools at 30 inches. The remaining council members agreed.


“There’s nothing magical about 24 versus 30,” McDonald said.


Lowering the depth to 24 inches would have made many pools, hot tubs and spas non-conforming, he said.


McDonald requested the ordinance specifically exempt nonpools such as koi ponds. He said the city should have a separate ordinance if it wants to regulate fountains and ponds.


Price said staff had incorrectly used the ordinance that regulates pools, hot tubs and spas to regulate koi ponds.


“A koi pond is not intended to be a swimming area,” Price said. “When you look at the fact that detention ponds are not required to be fenced, we don’t feel that’s fair or an appropriate inconsistency we need to continue.”


“A lot of people thought code enforcement overstepped its bounds in applying it for ponds,” McDonald said.


People must continue to pay $40 permit fees to erect temporary pools covered under the ordinance.


Permits give staff a chance to educate residents about the required fence, Price said. He hopes staff can convince store managers to post that information, as well.


“Honestly, it’s very difficult for staff when explaining this $200 pool is going to cost $700 more for a fence to go around,” Price said.


McDonald said most residents don’t know about the need for a fence let alone for a permit.


During a public hearing Monday, K. Andreah Briarmoon called the pool permit a tax.


She said she didn’t understand how the city could exempt ponds just because they are not intended for swimming.


A person’s pool in the backyard is not intended to be a public pool, either, she said.


“Who’s got goldfish ponds in their backyards?” she asked. “Are rich people’s kids smarter?”


Briarmoon said she would disagree with the ordinance until the Rock River had a fence along its entire length.


Speaker John Gorski told the council the regulations are unnecessary and needless.


“Leave us alone,” he said.



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