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Wellesley shows some flexibility in fence bylaw

The Township of Wellesley demonstrated some flexibility within their fence bylaw earlier this week, permitting one exemption and rejecting another.

Council approved the fence proposal at the property owned by Dennis and Emily Schultz at 3634 Nafziger Rd., permitting them exemption from section 3.1(e) of the township’s fence bylaw, and rejected the proposal from Tyrone DeBrouwer at 2 Ferris Dr. seeking an exemption from section 3.1 (b) and 3.1(e) of the bylaw.

Section 3.1(b) states that no part of any fence shall be erected, nor any shrubs or foliage be planted or maintained that exceed 0.8 metres (2.6 feet) in height in a driveway daylight triangle or in a corner daylight triangle, and Section 3.1(e) states that no part of any fence located in a front yard or within 1.5 metres of an exterior side yard lot shall exceed 0.8 metres (2.6 feet) in height.

The two parties had appeared as delegations at the Mar. 20 council meeting, both stating that the “unique” conditions of their property, as well as their desire to protect their pets and children from traffic, should excuse them from the bylaw.

Council deferred a decision on both fences until a report could be completed by staff.

In the case of the Schulze’s property, the property owners argued the unique location and dimensions of their property made them exempt from the fence bylaw. Their property is situated between Nafziger Road and a township maintenance lane, and as a result of this configuration they have no usable backyard, meaning the only place for their children to play is in their side yard.

Their property is also located in what Dennis described as a “sink hole” and that the grade of the property drops down approximately two feet (0.6 metres) from street level into the yard, meaning a fence 0.8 metres in height would barely come up to the level of the sidewalk, affording virtually no privacy.

The couple proposed to council a plan to build a stepped-fence that would be 1.2 metres (3.9 feet) high at the southeast corner of the property, increasing to 2.0 metres (6.5 feet) at the centre of the property, step down to approximately 1.25 metres (4.1 feet) until it reached the northeast corner, where it would increase to 1.83 metres in height (6 feet).

In his report to council, chief building official Rik Louwagie indicated that the fence, as described by the Schultze’s, should have no negative impacts on visibility issues for pedestrians or vehicles, and that the sketches prepared by the home owners indicated the fence would be esthetically pleasing.

The neighbours on either side of the couple also indicated, in writing, their approval of the fence project.

While councillors allowed the exemption of the bylaw given the unique circumstances, they did express some trepidation that it would lead to a large influx of similar requests.

“Personally I have no problem with this is that I wouldn’t like to see this open up the flood gates,” said Coun. Jim Olender, a sentiment shared by Coun. Herb Neher.

“We need to outline some way for residents to get at this exemption, otherwise we’ll get people in off the street and we will say there is a process to follow, but we have no process,” Neher said.

Louwagie suggested that staff could devise a standardized method of appeal similar to a minor variance application, which would put the onus on property owners to make their case as to why they should be exempt in the future.

In the case of the DeBrouwer application, councillors immediately indicated that the property was a very different scenario than the one presented by the Schultze’s.

The property at 2 Ferris Dr. is a corner lot and DeBrouwer had proposed building a wrought-iron fence measuring 5 feet (1.5 meters) in height along his exterior side yard, exceeding the height restriction of 0.8 meters described in the bylaw.

DeBrouwer also wishes to continue the fence along the rear of his property, but there is neighbouring a driveway to the south which creates a driveway daylight lighting triangle, limiting the height of the fence at the rear of the property to 0.8 metres under the bylaw.

In his presentation to council on Mar. 20 DeBrouwer indicated that the presence of a 1.2 metre fence on his neighbour’s property to the south (erected prior to the implementation of the fence bylaw) should exempt him from the bylaw, and the fact that the wrought iron fence is see-through should alleviate the visibility issues.

In his report to council, however, Louwagie noted that the proposed fence could potentially pose visibility issues for pedestrians and traffic given that it would be higher than the existing fence, and the proposed location of the fence along the side property line could interfere with the growth of trees currently located on and adjacent to the property.

Councillors agreed that while they granted the exemption to the Schultze fence given its peculiar circumstances, the same could not be done for the DeBrouwer proposal.

“I’ve been out there and looked at it, and it’s certainly not the same situation. Not even close,” said Olender.

Council elected to enforce the height requirements of the fence bylaw and Louwagie informed council he would tell DeBrouwer of their decision over the phone the next day.

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