Dear Editor (Queens Chronicle):
Ugly obstructive fencing has become a real issue in the lower residential zones of R-1 and R-2, especially when the fence is on a corner property. Currently, homeowners in these zones can erect fences as high as 6 feet, and can surround their property with this type of fortress fencing. The city is considering new zoning text to limit fencing height to 4 feet.
Now is the perfect time for the city to include what some communities have termed a “clear-sight” corner. I can point to several corner properties with 6-foot-high solid fences. Some fences are wood or plastic; some are concrete columns, or even solid cement walls. These tall corner fences block the view of approaching vehicles at the intersection. I live on a street with two 6-foot fences on corner lots. Those corners are very dangerous, and have been the site of numerous accidents and near misses. One solid white fence is also a favorite graffiti site for local kids. Not only is it dangerous, it’s ugly because the owner doesn’t clean off the graffiti. That’s another issue.
A clear-sight corner means that corner properties would be prohibited from erecting a fence, planting a tree or bush, or erecting an obstruction that does not provide for a clear view around the corner. A community that comes to mind limits the restricted footage to 20-feet from the vortex of the two intersecting streets. This makes sense.
Tall corner fences are not just an esthetic issue, but are a real safety issue. Other front fences or hedgerows in R-1 and R-2 zones should be limited to somewhere between 3 and 3 1/2 feet. Tall side fences should not be allowed to jut out beyond the front of the house. Some homeowners have erected obstructive fences all the way down to the sidewalk, and block the view down the street. A few of these fences are grudge fences, erected just to offend a neighbor they don’t like. Sometime these fences also conceal front yards full of junk or debris, illegally stored vehicles, or hide illegal construction or illegal housing.
Some homeowners say they feel safer with a high fence. This is really a false sense of security because your best defense against a burglar, as the police will tell you, is for somebody to see them. Once over the fence, a thief is hidden from view, and can take more time to break into the home.
I encourage City Planning to incorporate the idea of clear sight corners in their new zoning text.