Whitehall fences with fence laws

The Whitehall Village Board last Tuesday night found itself a bit fenced in by contradictory fence laws.

Mayor Peter Telisky said that when a village resident planned to put up a normal fence, he should simply be able to contact Code Enforcement Officer Gary Bennett for an informal okay.

Telisky said he saw no reason why any village resident had to secure planning board approval to build a clearly compliant fence.

“The planning board would be the place to get a variance for irregular fencing,” Telisky said.

But, the type of fence and who has jurisdiction over them, brought the idea to a standstill.

Trustee Ken Bartholomew spotted the first discrepancy in area fence laws: Barbed wire and razor wire are not permitted for home fencing, but are, in some cases, permitted as toppings on commercial fencing.

Village Attorney Erika Sellar Ryan caught the second discrepancy. She said laws about fences fall under the jurisdiction of zoning. Variances should thus come before the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Mayor Telisky asked Ryan if the original idea — presenting your compliant fence plan to the code enforcement officer — could still be implemented if Ryan rewrote the law.

She said it could, noting that in Cambridge, if your fence is regular, you simply run its plan of construction by the code officer.

Unable to change the inconsistencies in the fence law, the board, after a short discussion, directed Rayn to fine tune the wording of the proposed village fence law.

It was the second time in a month that the board has wrestled with the law.

At its August meeting, the board directed Ryan to update several 1915 ordinances, including one that permits anyone to own a junk yard for a $5 fee. Sellars is rewriting the ordinance so that the fee will be $1,000.

She said she hoped to have all her legal rewrites completed for the board’s next meeting.

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