Which side of the fence are you on?

By Bruce Thompson, Guest Columnist 

A recent decision by our Little Falls City Council warrants notification to all concerned citizens. My attention was drawn to a family installing a privacy fence last spring. My concern was directed to the owner/installer with no success. I obtained a copy of our City Ordinance 801 dated June 3, 1974, as may have been modified, which governs residential fencing. Appropriate approval in this circumstance appears correct. The installation was my concern, and this has been the issue ever since. 

Having contacted the appropriate city official, I was able to file my complaint. I’m not sure why I was encouraged to file this complaint, since it was dismissed without merit by summer’s end.

Our fence ordinance states in part the following: “The side of the fence considered to be the face (facing as applied to fence posts) shall face the abutting property.” I believe this clearly defines the correct placement of the fence face panels. However, I was incorrect.

My concern was then addressed to our City Council. This fine group of people stated that this ordinance was “dog-gone” confusing. They further stated that my concern should not be the placement of the face panel, but rather the placement of the fence post. At this point I had to request a legal review, and the following is the attorney decision:

“I have reviewed the pictures submitted regarding Mr. Thompson’s fence complaint. I have also reviewed the fence ordinance in our code. I find that the fence complies with our fence ordinance as written.”

I was relieved to finally get a legal reading on this critical issue and you should be too. I’m sure most readers will agree that we must modify this 39-year-old ordinance to remove the ambiguous language determined to be “dog-gone” confusing and replace it with its current/new intent. I would suggest something like the following: “Installers of residential fencing no longer need to be concerned with who receives the finished side (face) of the fence.”

In closing, I would like to thank many readers for your time and support. I would also like to thank our elected officials for another job well done.

Bruce Thompson is a resident of Little Falls.

  • robin hensel

    Bruce….thank you very much for writing this letter. Kudos. The public has a right to know what is really happening at city council meetings and how city staff are performing. The reason you were asked to write a complaint letter, is likely the same reason the city requested of me to write a complaint letter asking for the We Support the Troops Banner. Because we have at least in part, complaint driven ordinances in this “quaint little river town with the great big problems.” Likely the same former co- city administrator asked both of us for the complaint letters. I love your last sentence, written with sarcasm. Hopefully this savvy council will get right on it.(modifying another bogus ordinance)