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The North Bend Eagle


Setback debate continues

by Nathan Arneal
Published 9/14/11


Click here to see the zoning changes Ord. 508 would make.

For the second straight meeting, proposed Ordinance 508 sparked debate in North Bend’s city council chambers.

The ordinance, which would relax regulations regarding fence and accessory building setbacks in the city code book, received its second of a required three readings at the Sept. 6 council meeting.

Several of the changes being considered by the council go against the recommendation of the city’s planning commission. Lon Bohling, a member of the planning commission, attended the council meeting to voice his disagreement with certain portions of 508.

“I’m disappointed that the council has gone against the planning commissions recommendation on these two issues,” Bohling said. “I would hate to see every time someone comes in with a fence or accessory building that we go into the code book and make changes. We might as well take (the code book) and throw it out because it’s going to be useless.”

After council members supporting 508 debated how the new regulations would affect specific intersections in town with citizens attending the meeting, council member Emily Kirschenmann said she is not in favor of passing Ordinance 508.
“Ever yard in every neighborhood is going to be different,” she said. “I’m not for it and that’s why. I think we’re going to end up doing this (debating) at every meeting.”

Councilmen Tim Blackmon and Tom Mullally spoke in favor of Ordinance 508. Councilman Kevin Ferguson was less outspoken, but his few remarks also seemed to indicate support for the measure. Mayor Jeff Kluthe, who would only vote to break a tie, also voiced his support for the proposed changes.

Blackmon said the council wasn’t trying to upstage the planning commission, which functions as an advisory board to the council, but it simply wants to give people more freedom to use their property.

On most streets in town, fences have to be built at least 65 feet from the center of the street according to current regulations. Blackmon said this doesn’t allow many residents to build a fence at all.

“We just feel like maybe (the planning commission) went too far,” Blackmon said. “Sometimes it’s easier just to say no than have to deal with the issues. Maybe it’s not perfect for every situation, but we think you guys went too far in saying nobody can have (fences).”

Mullally said the proposed setbacks are in line with regulations in Fremont and other surrounding towns. He said reducing the accessory building setbacks on platted alleys still allowed at least 20 feet of space for utility trucks to pass through.

“I just don’t see where this is opening the floodgates to let people do whatever they want,” Mullally said.

Most of the opponents to reducing the fence setbacks argue that the changes would obstruct the view of drivers too much and be unsafe for children playing in yards and driveways. Blackmon said the proposed setbacks still meet state standards for safety.

“What I’ve heard here is that some people don’t like fences just because they don’t like to lose their view,” Blackmon said. “But just because you don’t like something on my property, that doesn’t mean you have the right to tell me what I can and can’t do.

“You’re always going to have issues where kids are going to be flying down the street (in their cars), and they can hurt somebody any day of the week no matter how wide the road is, so we don’t want to get too much emotion in this. We’re trying to be sensible but fair, and we think (the planning commission) went too far the other way.”

A vote on Ordinance 508 will take place following the proposal’s third and final reading at the Sept. 20 city council meeting.

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