Russell Township Trustees last week questioned the need for a proposed amendment to the zoning code regarding fences.

Zoning Commission member Barry Rogers presented the proposal during an Aug. 4 public session and said it would provide clarity to residents on installing and maintaining fences, among other issues.

“There really is nothing in the current zoning that limits fencing in any way,” Mr. Rogers told trustees.

Trustee Kristina Port said the proposed zoning amendment was confusing and had a lack of definition between a front yard and backyard, among other concerns.

“I think that there is still some work that needs to be done in respect to this amendment,” she said.

Mr. Rogers said that the task for the zoning commission has been to define a reasonable zoning amendment to “provide some control” over fencing as outlined in the Geauga County model code.

“We relied heavily on that,” Mr. Rogers explained. “Our language is 90-percent based on that document. I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, plus we can use their expertise and experience and knowledge to work from.”

The township zoning commission looked at zoning practices in Bainbridge, Chardon, Chester and South Russell, he said.

The proposal includes definitions of a fence and landscape wall. It also includes 13 permitted uses, modifications and exceptions. Residents would not be required to get a permit, under the proposal. The list includes issues such as a fence not blocking sight lines of drivers, prohibition of barbed wire fences, a 16-foot height limit to enclose sports backstops and courts and more.

Mr. Rogers said surrounding communities have front yard height limits of 4 feet and backyard limits of 6 feet for fences. The exception is South Russell Village where only split-rail fences are permitted in front yards.

Trustee Gary Gabram said fences can be personal. “I just think so many people are going to get lost,” Mr. Gabram said of the proposed rules.

Mr. Rogers said the amendment could be used as a tool. “What we didn’t want to do is create a hammer.”

Mr. Gabram and Mrs. Port voted against the recommendation. Trustee Jim Mueller was not present at the meeting.

“We appreciate the effort and the time the board put into this,” Mr. Gabram said.

Both trustees stated that they would “be happy” to revisit the amendment again in the future.

The next Russell Township meeting is on Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at 14890 Chillicothe Road in Russell.

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