New requirements for swimming pools lead to additional discussions about privacy fences in Bridgewater
BRIDGEWATER, NJ – The issue of closed / open fences on the Bridgewater Township residential lot raised its heads again at the latest city council meeting.
It was about introducing an ordinance amending an existing land use ordinance specifically for swimming pools and fences, creating a new chapter for fences and retaining walls. It would consolidate and change the current community requirements for certain privacy fences.
Community planner Scarlett Doyle said the definition of a swimming pool previously included a depth of 18 inches. This has been increased to 24 inches as defined in the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) for swimming pools.
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Regarding unfenced pools, Doyle said it was not a superfluous problem as the community “cannot return and request that the fence be upgraded”.
She also said an 8 foot high fence could be built including safety wire on top, which she indicated is now a utility option and actually dates back to 1983. Residents can build a 7-foot wire-top fence that curls inward toward the property, but would have to go in front of one of the local councils to change that.
Doyle then read from a February 21 letter to the council about the Bridgewater Township Planning Board’s sentiments about fences, including property lines and setbacks. The board of directors had issued a letter of recommendation at its meeting on February 13th.
The proposed regulation’s parameters include 4-foot open fences in front yards and indoor lots. Back and side gardens are allowed a maximum of 6 foot high open or solid fence fences that are 6 inches from the property line.
A 3-foot fence can be placed on a 3-foot retaining wall, which Doyle said was permissible in the past.
Councilor Howard Norgalis, who works on the planning board, said the planning board has messed up the situation and created good housing without making the city look like a “palisade”.
Regarding the increasing depth of the pools, Vice President of the Council Matthew Moench asked if an inflatable pool would be included on a deck if it were theoretically 24 inches deep, and Norgalis said such a pool would not require a fence. Doyle recommended checking with Stephen Rodzinak, Superintendent for Code Enforcement, adding that liability could exist if the depth is greater than 24 inches.
Regarding the redevelopment of the planning board, Doyle said it could be used across the city, not just by zone. There is also no fee for the conformation of the fence installation – in the past it was based on fixed or open fences, but its uses have been few.
The city councilor Filipe Pedroso asked about the current status of the regulation, whether no fixed fences are permitted without first being given a derogation. Doyle said they were approved as kickbacks for the access structure, 25 feet (long) on three sides, sides and back.
“There have been setbacks in the last ten years,” she added.
There was not a second after Norgalis’ motion to put the regulation in place, and Council President Christine Henderson Rose later said it would not go through.
When the meeting opened to the public at that time, Bridgewater-resident Wes Mersinger, who spoke on the subject last year, said he was disappointed and didn’t understand the local backlash against privacy fencing.
“I should have a right to privacy on my property,” he said.
He said a neighbor who lives behind him has a dilapidated property, and Mersinger didn’t think the use of privacy fences would make the town look like a palisade. Pointing out nearby Somerville, which he thought was a different size town that was often cited in relation to fences, he added that Bridgewater has smaller lots.
He also said picturing a stone or rock wall for privacy could cost as much as $ 20,000.
“I just wanted to express my frustration,” said Mersinger.
The proposal to introduce the regulation was raised again and this time supported by City Councilor Allen Kurdyla. The motion was accepted 3: 2, Pedroso and Moench voted against.
The regulation should be forwarded to the planning authority for the April 23 meeting. A public hearing should take place at the Council meeting on May 7th.