City Council considers changing fence requirements

CAMANCHE— The Camanche City Council discussed an ordinance this week that would require 6-foot fences around swimming pools.

Camanche Mayor Trevor Willis said that when he was on the city council in 2008, the council changed the height requirement for privacy fences from 4 feet to 6 feet for citizens installing swimming pools. The city made the change, in part, to provide homeowners some backing because a 6-foot fence is harder to scale than a 4-foot fence, Willis said.

The city changed the required fence height back to 4 feet in 2014 during codification of city ordinances by the East Central Intergovernmental Association.

"What they do, or what they used to do, is they used to send all of our ordinance changes and any recommended changes they get from other cities that other cities are doing all in red ink," Willis said. "And so, when it came time for the council to read through the entire code, there may have been some issues where some of those recommendations were not exactly what the council wanted to do but got moved through anyway in the codification process."

Willis said that ECIA is now using a different color ink for recommendations to avoid the problem in the future.

When the city changed the fence requirement to 6 feet, people with 4-foot fences were grandfathered in, Willis said. The city can determine who is grandfathered in by the date of their building permits, he said.

Camanche Fire Chief Dave Schutte said the fire department has 30 years of permit records. All are paper copies. The permits are sequential by the way they come in but are not divided specifically by fence permits.

City Administrator Andrew Kida said that for the last two years the city has entered building permits in the city's Mobile 311 system and assigned them to the specific addresses.

"Any of the permits that have been issued over the last two-and-a-half years, now you can look at that address... and you'll see the permits there," Kida said. "So it would be a bit of a project to go back and scan.

"You can look and see the image of the permit itself as well," Kida said. "So you could go back, and we can scan all those in and attach them to all those addresses.

"That might be beneficial. It might be fruitless," Kida said. "But going forward, all of the permits that come in now, they all get attached to that address through the Mobile 311 so we have that digital record of it."

One issue the city needs to consider is whether to grandfather in individuals who installed 4-foot fences at the time the ordinance only required a 4-foot fence, Camanche City Attorney John Frey said.

If the city elects to grandfather in the 4-foot fences, the ordinance needs to state that, Frey said. The city can't leave it to someone's discretion.

The ordinance also needs to be specific as to whether fences are required around any pools or only swimming pools, Frey said.

The current ordinance says a swimming pool is a water-filled enclosure, permanently constructed or portable, having a depth of 2 feet or more, which is outdoors or has access from the outdoors if it is partially enclosed.

A pool is an outdoor structure for containing water with an interior depth of 2 feet above or below or grade, having an interior depth of 2 feet or more.

The ordinance proposed for a first reading needs to be reworked if the council wants fences around retention ponds or retaining basins.

The proposed ordinance amendment says that all present or hereinafter-constructed outdoor swimming pools must be enclosed by a 6-foot fence and requires a building permit for both the swimming pool and the fence.

The fencing must be of material and sufficient strength and anchoring to support 250 pounds of side pressure per 10 feet of length without collapsing, the proposed amendment says. If a fence is attached to the swimming pool, the outside walls of the swimming pool can be used to meet the 6 foot fence requirement.

Most portable pools are 2 feet tall, Willis said, so the ordinance should read "over 2 feet" and not "2 feet and over."

"The ones that we were trying to keep out of that are 2 foot," Willis said.

The city council tabled first readings of the ordinances for swimming pools and fence supplementary regulations.