Landscaping used as fencing for homes elicited a long debate by Dublin City Council members last week.
The first reading of modifications to the fence code that would remove all references to hedges as fences produced varying opinions during an Oct. 22 meeting.
The changes were prompted by council members who asked the city staff to look into the matter after dealing with a complaint from a resident.
The "least disruptive approach" would be to remove references to hedges from fence code, a staff report to council stated. The use of hedges would still be included in landscaping code.
"The proposed amendment addresses comments from city council and its community development committee, noting that hedges are used in many parts of the city as fences as well as screening and that it should be an acceptable feature of the community," the report said.
Planning and zoning commission members sent the changes to council and recommend disapproval because the current code has "been effective in preserving the original intent of keeping open views along shared property lines," the report said.
Both Cathy Boring and Richard Gerber were worried the changes didn't address the entire problem, but John Reiner said residents have a right to privacy in their backyards.
"I think everyone has the right to screen their own yard from their neighbors," Vice Mayor Amy Salay said, noting that screening can add value to a home. "This is happening in our community despite the fence code."
As the code currently stands, hedges are allowed as fences but may not exceed four feet in height.
"This is almost something you can't legislate," Reiner said.
Council member Michael Keenan agreed, adding that it's difficult to write laws for common sense.
"We're trying to write legislation for a problem that doesn't exist," he said.
Boring was worried that removing mention of hedges from the fence code would allow people to use large trees as barriers in inappropriate areas.
City Attorney Steve Smith cautioned the council members about enforcement issues.
"I can't imagine enforcing something like this," he said.
Mayor Tim Lecklider said his neighborhood is more appealing today than it was 20 years ago because of more vegetation.
"In terms of enforcement, it seems like this would be complaint-driven," he said. "Then it would be arbitrary."
Writing code that would prohibit vegetation as screening in the backyard would be difficult to craft, Smith said. The city has only received one complaint regarding this problem, he said.
"I don't think I can write something enforceable in this area," he said, noting that the proposed change to the fence code may be the best solution for the problem before council.
"It's one of those things where beauty is in the eye of the beholder or not," Lecklider said, adding that he would rather see trees than the back of a home, while others may not.
"It's a hugely subjective thing," Reiner agreed.
The changes to the fence code are expected to go before council for a vote Nov. 5.