Council to consider fence guideline suggestions

Published 5:51 pm Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, is scheduled to consider approving recommended changes to guidelines governing fences and walls in the city’s historic district.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission recommends the changes be adopted. The proposed changes have been debated and reviewed for several months. The council, during a meeting in November, conducted a hearing on proposed changes to the guidelines, and then decided to send the proposed changes back to the commission for additional review. The proposed changes regarding fences and walls have elicited support and opposition.

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.

Don Stroud, president of the Washington Area Historic Foundation, noted the proposed changes do not outlaw privacy fences altogether.

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 included: 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.

The proposed changes may be reviewed by looking at a copy of the council’s agenda for its meeting Monday. The proposed changes begin on page 35 of the tentative agenda.

The council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers in the Municipal Building, 102 E. Second St. To view the council’s agenda for a specific meeting, visit the city’s web­site at, click “Government” then “City Council” heading, then click “Meeting Agendas” on the menu to the right. Then click on the date for the appropriate agenda.


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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