Bridgewater Council Tables Regulation on Privacy Fencing Rules

BRIDGEWATER, NJ – The issue of fencing in Bridgewater was revisited on Jan. 18 and is likely to be discussed again in the near future after the city council tabled an ordinance on the matter.

The fence matter was raised during the public part of the council meeting on January 18, and a regulation was put in place and tabled later that evening.

According to the agenda of the Council, the regulation consisted of amending Chapter 126 relating to land use and repealing Chapters 126-194 entitled “Fences” and instead creating a new Chapter 196 entitled “Fences and Retaining Walls” which contained the Land Consolidate and Change The community’s requirements related to certain types of privacy fencing.

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Joe Garner, who lives in Bridgewater, said during the public part that he had read a draft of the regulation.

“I’m not sure what problem you’re trying to solve,” he said.

He inquired about the proximity of the fence to neighboring properties and asked if open fences were allowed, which he thought allowed the beauty of the city to shine through.

Garner also said he believed there were conflicting sections in the regulation, such as allowing a fence to be built, but with what are known as “common materials”. He said he didn’t want a neighbor to build the Great Wall and asked what would happen if such a wall fell over or extended onto his property.

“I’m moving you to table the amendment until you can take a closer look,” he said.

Wesley Mersinger of Bloomfield said he believed he was the main proponent of the amendment. He said he understood how to preserve the city’s beauty, but replied that he had bought his property and paid taxes on it and that it should be his right to keep it if his fence did not cause harshness.

He also said that if he lives next to a neighbor whose property is in disrepair, it should be his right to put up a fence so that he does not have to look at the property.

“There should be some flexibility,” he said.

Mersinger also said he had researched other cities and found that they had some flexibility when it came to fixed fences.

Garner replied that he had no problem with someone wanting an open fence, but that he would need to get permission to have a closed fence.

Regarding the fence ordinance, community administrator James Naples said community planner Scarlett Doyle conducted a study of six parishes in June. The study showed that most of these communities did not allow a six-foot solid fence in a front yard.

Alderman Howard Norgalis said he did not want palisade-style fences in the city. At the January 18 meeting, it was also mentioned that City Councilor Filipe Pedroso, who was absent that evening, had withdrawn the fencing permits issued by the Urban Area Office, particularly in relation to the proximity to highways and how the character of the city had changed .

Zoning board applications have also been found to be extremely expensive – a simple deviation costs around $ 350, while a usage deviation application is around USD 3,000, although the applicant’s money actually goes into an escrow account.

“(We) could discuss it with the planning board,” Doyle said of the criteria.

Alderman Allen Kurdyla said he was not sure where he was on the ordinance. He added that in his experience, if you wanted privacy, they put up a solid fence.

Once on Pearl Street, Kurdyla said, a homeowner was forced to demolish a fence and plant pine trees instead, as there was a public sidewalk next to his property. Kurdyla said he would vote against the regulation if people’s privacy could not be protected.

Doyle said it is not common for a board to award a fence for a temporary situation, especially in relation to relationships with neighbors, as a resident may not live in the same house for their entire life. She also said that a six foot high retaining wall could be topped by a six foot high (closed) fence for a total height of 12 feet.

“It would cause inconvenience to a neighbor on the other side,” said Doyle.

She added that such structure would likely not be granted, although an open fence might be allowed.

Council Vice President Matthew Moench said he was struggling with the regulation and thought it was too much. He said he felt some issues still needed to be addressed, such as the cost of $ 3,000 for a resident with a legitimate problem to appear before the zoning board because of a usage variance.

Moench said he wants to provide guidance to the zoning and planning boards to streamline the process to get a deviation, and he also didn’t want walled-in communities. Doyle said an amendment to the regulation regarding fees could be developed.

“We can’t cure everything,” said Moench.

The community’s attorney, William Savo, said there were city laws that could remedy this, and everything else could be regulated in an ordinance. Moench said the regulation under discussion could be amended while Doyle asked the council for guidance on lot size.

Regarding trees along a property line, Moench asked who would have the right to cut them down. Savo and Naples said limbs hanging over their own property could be cut off.

The regulation was tabled unanimously by the four council members present.

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