Sunday, November 27, 2022

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Graham, NC 27253
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Fences, storage buildings: cities may have rules, or are considering them, that restrict what residents are allowed, or will be allowed, to have

Three local municipalities are considering various changes to their city ordinances with various revisions being considered on fences, storage buildings, and so-called feather flags, which also include “flailing arm tube men.”

The first two categories – fences and outside storage buildings – are issues in residential areas, while the third is primarily an issue in commercial districts.  See separate story on feather flags.

Fences: what materials to be allowed in front yards, how high

Graham was exploring various limits on fences – the planning department wanted to limit how far fences could go toward the front property line, generally proposing to stop them parallel to the front of the house – rather than allowing them to reach the front property line.

Additionally, planning director Justin Snyder was proposing a prohibition altogether on certain kinds of fencing and to set new height limits.

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Early in the year, the city council considered Snyder’s recommendations, without taking any final action, but in April resolved to postpone the whole issue, pending a comprehensive review of the city’s unified development ordinance.

Before it abandoned the effort, Graham’s council instructed the planning director to revise his fencing proposal to allow fencing with at least 50 percent transparency to be allowed in front yards.

Mebane proposal: prohibit chain link fences in front yards

Meanwhile, in Mebane, planning director Cy Stober is proposing that chain link fences be prohibited altogether in front yards.

During the Mebane planning board meeting earlier this month, the board sat through a two-hour presentation on changes being recommended in a comprehensive re-write of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO), apparently the kind of comprehensive approach that Graham’s city council has now opted to await.

Also prohibited in any part of a Mebane property would be “welded wire” fencing, as well as barbed wire, razor wire, concertina wire or other sharp materials, and no electric fences would be permitted anywhere in the city.

One specific example that would be prohibited, cited by one planning board member, was a fencing style called “welded wire” on South Fifth Street (see photo illustration).  While that home would be grandfathered in, Stober said, that is, in fact, the type of fencing that he would propose to ban for future installation within the city.

This type of fence, with wooden rails and metal mesh behind, a so-called welded wire fence, would be prohibited in the future within Mebane, based on a pending proposal, although exiting ones, like this one on South Fifth Street would be grandfathered in.

Fences would be allowed closer to the front on corner lots than at present (which is restricted to 15 feet from the front right of way), instead allowing them no closer than 5 feet from the right of way.

Burlington: 4-foot height restrictions for fences near setbacks

Meanwhile, in Burlington, that city’s UDO presently allows fences and walls within any required setback, although they’re prohibited within the “sight distance triangles” for vehicular traffic.

Fences – along with ramps, porch steps, walkways – may also encroach into front setbacks within so-called pocket neighborhoods, a term used for clusters of small, single-family homes that are grouped around a common area or “green.”

A proposed revision Burlington’s UDO would cap the heights of fences and walls at four feet whenever they extend into a required street setback or follow a building’s façade line.

This potential new rule was presented to Burlington’s planning and zoning commission on Monday along with a ream of other suggested tweaks to the UDO. The commission’s members voted 6-to-1 to recommend all of the changes to Burlington’s city council.  Planning board member John Black was the dissenter on recommending the package of changes.

Mebane to revise metal storage building prohibition that it doesn’t (usually) enforce

Another of the changes being recommended in the large package of changes Mebane’s city council will be asked to consider is whether to ease up on the city’s current prohibition on metal storage buildings (so-called “accessory buildings and structures”).

Mebane’s current ordinance currently has a total prohibition on such structures except for farm use – both within the city limits and the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) within the planning area but outside the municipal boundary.

This kind of metal buildings, in side yards or backyards, are easily seen throughout Mebane, even though they are ostensibly prohibited by the city’s ordinances.

A proposed revision included during the two-hour discussion would allow “high-quality metal” to be allowed as a building material for accessory structures in two new areas: the B-1 business district and on residential areas with 1½ acres.  “Sheet metal and boxer metal” – which was further defined as either corrugated metal siding or box rib metal siding – would not be allowed, Stober told the planning board.

And while the official city policy within the UDO says metal buildings are currently prohibited throughout Mebane, a casual drive through the city reveals many examples of such structures in backyards across many areas of the city on regular-size lots.

Stober said that when a complaint is received about a metal storage building on a resident’s lot, the homeowner will be issued a “notice of violation” and that the city will “expect compliance,” Stober elaborated in response to a question during the meeting.

One Mebane resident, Rami Al-Chacar, who also works for Hometown Sheds, a storage building company in Burlington, raised questions about the city’s restrictions on metal buildings.

In an interview after the meeting, Al-Chacar, said Mebane’s current policy of generally prohibiting such structures is “very uncommon” throughout the Southeast.

Even in Florida, where residents must contend with the occasional hurricane, cities are not as “picky” as Mebane about metal storage structures.

“The type of building he [Stober] would like are insanely expensive,” Al-Chacar said, adding he questioned the city’s seeming standard of simply disliking the “aesthetics of it.”

Al-Chacar also questioned whether the survey of Mebane residents Stober cited was representative of Mebane’s overall population.  Even though more than 70 percent wanted to allow metal buildings, Al-Chacar noted that only about 150 residents, of Mebane’s 18,000 population, responded to any of the survey questions.

Burlington’s UDO currently prohibits the use of metal buildings as accessory structures within the city’s commercial districts. This restriction applies not only to structures faced with corrugated sheet metal but also pre-fab steel panels. Other prohibited materials include vinyl and asphalt siding, smooth faced concrete blocks, untextured tilt-up concrete panels, mirrored glass, and synthetic stucco “within two feet of the grade.”

The ordinance is a bit more permissive in multi-family districts, although here, too, corrugated metal siding is prohibited for front-facing façades – as are smooth-faced concrete blocks and synthetic stucco. In single-family neighborhoods, these same three materials are entirely forbidden for the exteriors of principal buildings, along with unpainted plywood.

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