The Gahanna Planning Commission had planned to hear advice from police and fire leaders prior to voting May 25 to change any part of the city's fence code.

The Gahanna Planning Commission had planned to hear advice from police and fire leaders prior to voting May 25 to change any part of the city's fence code.

At the request of city council, the commission has been reviewing section 1171.03(h) of the fence code, which prohibits privacy and/or chain-link fences in side and front yards.

The commission and deputy development director Leah Evans examined the fence codes of various cities during a May 18 workshop. Evans provided codes from Bexley, Dublin, Hilliard, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Westerville, Whitehall and Worthington.

"Generally, no fences are allowed in front yards," Evans said. "That's standard. Some don't define front yard the way we do. A lot of them can have a 6-foot fence in the back and side yard. There are some variations among them."

Commission chair Kristin Rosan said she recently drove through Bexley, where fencing is around entire properties.

"Some were solid stucco and brick," she said.

Rosan requested examples of sideyard fence codes.

Evans said Hilliard allows an ornamental or privacy fence in the side or rear yard if the fence isn't within 10 feet to the right of way where the side or rear yard abuts a street or alley.

Rosan asked if the development department has a rationale for allowing a privacy fence only in the rear yard and not the side yard.

Evans said reasons include maintaining openness for the presentation of property, as well as visibility to monitor private property.

"It's to protect the openness of the community protect the natural environment of what people may want to see," she said.

Evans said Gahanna residents have the option of requesting variances to the current fence code.

"I agree we don't a have a big problem," Rosan said. "But maybe we can make it better. It may not be a problem or people may not be speaking up about it."

Commission member Jennifer Price said she remembers public safety being an issue concerning the visibility into yards. She cited an example of calling police, who had used a spotlight to look into yards when her neighborhood was experiencing thefts from vehicles.

Commission member Joe Keehner said the whole issue is problematic because it involves private property, yet guidelines are needed for aesthetics.

Price said it's an eyesore to see tall fences or various fence colors.

"When it's solid, it isn't softened at all," Price said. "Everyone has an idea of what's aesthetically pleasing."

Commission member Bob Westwood said his main issue is the height, and the city has a height requirement of 42 inches for a reason.

Brock and Kelly Robertson, who had requested that the fence code be reviewed, erected a 72-inch-high fence.

"I struggle with this because the property owner wants something specific, and it doesn't work in the guidelines," Price said. "This is someone who should seek a variance."

Rosan said the Robertson property is next to a park, so safety concerns might qualify the property for a variance.

"I'd like input on this from fire and police," Westwood said.

Rosan said the Robertsons noted that the fence code isn't uniformly applied.

Evans said code-enforcement officer Brian Reynolds covers 12.9 miles and logs 8,000-plus miles annually.

"Fences are one of 20-some odd violations," she said. "People call us or email us, or Brian witnesses (violations). There are so many things. Just like with police, some crimes don't get caught. There's no fool-proof way. We don't think there's rampant noncompliance going on."