Fence decision delayed

Published 4:14 pm Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Washington’s City Council wants the city’s Historic Preservation Commission to take another look at proposed changes to guidelines governing fences and walls in the city’s historic district.

Although several people urged the council to approve the recommended changes, the council voiced concerns with the suggested modifications, including worries they might be too restrictive. Some council members applied the words “over-controlling” and “handicaps” to the proposed changes. They had concerns with the proposed changes requiring fences to be painted a specific color or specific heights.

Supporters of the proposed changes said the modifications would help protect the integrity of the historic district. Don Stroud, president of the Washington Area Historic Foundation, noted the proposed changes do not outlaw privacy fences altogether. Privacy fences are allowed under certain conditions, he said. WAHF member Shirley Stone said the committee that developed the proposed changes believes they are in the best interest of the historic district.

“We did not do this lightly,” Stone said.

Pat Lewis, who recently bought a house in the historic district, said, “I’m in the process of trying to get a fence. I really do like having privacy fences.” She noted that Wilmington, Edenton and Beaufort allow 6-foot-high privacy fences in rear yards, unless the lot in question is a corner lot. David Carraway, who owns a house in the historic district, urged the council to take time to review the proposed changes because they would affect property owners in the historic district.

“Like Councilman Mercer (said), I think when we start over-controlling as far as colors, et cetera, we need to take a step back. The guidelines … seem very appropriate for the historic district, but I, like Mr. Mercer, would like to see this to go back to the Historic (Preservation) Commission for just another quick, cursory look, and then bring it back to us at the next meeting,” Council member William Pitt said.

The proposed changes were discussed by the commission several times this year, most recently earlier this month.

Six years ago, a fence committee was formed to strengthen regulations concerning fences and walls, and examples of fences adhering to those regulations were provided in the guidelines, according to Dee Congleton, a long-time historic preservationist in the city.

In recent months, residents and potential homebuyers of properties in the historic district voiced their concerns regarding stronger regulations to help ensure the visual appeal of their properties. In April, John Rodman, director of community and cultural resources for the city, appointed Congleton as the chairwoman of the new fence committee.

The committee explored several options for fences. Committee recommendations include: streetscape fences must be no taller than 4 feet high and of an open design, with at least a 1-inch gap between pickets; privacy fences in back or side yards must be no taller than 5 feet; and several other design/construction guidelines. Among the examples of appropriate fences are brick latticework, wrought iron, stone or rock, shadow box and picket fences.



About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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