No more privacy fences in Cranberry front yards

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The infamous suburban “privacy” fence is to be no more in Cranberry for those homeowners who want privacy in the front yard.

Township supervisors approved new regulations Tuesday that will restrict front-yard fences that don’t meet a new set of criteria codified in a new ordinance.

Planning director Ron Henshaw said the regulations aren’t so much about aesthetics as they are about safety, though he acknowledged that the issue came to the forefront a few months ago following a dispute between neighbors over landscaping.

“Really, this is all about protecting the safety of residents,” he commented.

The new ordinance, which has been in the works for a few months and was reviewed during a workshop session last Thursday then approved Tuesday, pertain to fences or walls that are more than 3 feet in height and are within a certain section of the front yards of homes.

A fence taller than 3 feet cannot be erected in the front-yard setback area, which is a band of yard parallel to the street. The width of the setback band measures 25 feet in a residential district zoned R-3 (multifamily dwellings); within 40 feet for an R-2 district (a typical residential neighborhood); or within 50 feet in a district zoned R-1 (homes with large yards).

A $50 permit will be required to cover the costs of evaluating whether the proposed fence meets the new township restrictions.

Until now, the township had few restrictions involving fences except to require fencing around a swimming pool and a building permit for fences over 6 feet in height to ensure structural stability.

The concern over front-yard fences emerged in the fall when one resident erected a fence following an argument with a neighbor over landscaping. It was a 6-foot solid, wood stockade fence. “There was nothing we could do about it,” Mr. Henshaw said, though it was determined that the fence impacted site distance from the property owner’s driveway, creating what the township viewed as a potential traffic hazard. The resident has since moved and the fence was removed.

There are a variety of stipulations, among them that no fence greater than 3 feet will be permitted within 14 feet of the back edge of a street curb or within 6 feet of the back edge of a sidewalk, whichever is greater. Also, any fence over 3 feet in height must consist of pickets or cross-members with clear openings of at least 4 inches.

“Basically, you have to be able to see through it,” Mr. Henshaw said.

The district known as the “community character district,” is exempt because homes are built to pattern books that are designed to have some decorative features close to the road. But, safety issues relating to site distance already are provided for in the codes that regulate that district, Mr. Henshaw said.

No fence higher than 6 feet is allowed.

He said he doesn’t expect to receive many permit applications because, to his knowledge, not many people in Cranberry have been interested in building tall fences in their front yards. “But, this is filling a gap in a potential safety problem just in case it ever arises again,” Mr. Henshaw said.

Existing fences that don’t meet the new requirements are exempt.

Karen Kane: or at 724-772-9180.

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