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What is a fence?


The association in our subdivision is faced with an interpretation of our bylaws and thought it would be helpful to receive some unbiased opinions from those involved in landscaping.

A 50 foot row of 25 Arbor Vitaes was placed on the property line between two lots. As most of you know, Arbor Vitaes are an evergreen that will grow higher than 20 feet and wider than 3 feet thereby creating a solid mass within a year or two.
Our bylaws state that "no fence of ANY KIND shall be permitted to be erected, maintained, or placed upon any lot". There are opinions that since the Arbor Vitaes will grow into a dense hedge of large magnitude and by Webster's definition a hedge is defined as a fence that it must be removed. There are other opinions that this should be considered landscaping and not governed by the fence section of our bylaws.

It is important to note two things:

1. If this is not considered a fence, then the property owner could plant them on the remaining two sides of their lot effectively creating a "fenced in backyard".

2. The row of Arbor Vitae are 8 feet from the opposing neighbor's kitchen and dining room windows and patio. This results in unwanted shade affecting existing rose garden and the only view out the windows is a wall of shrubs.

What do you think?

mike gurnee

It is going to boil down to a legal interpretation. Sorry, but I don't see any way around it. Your association can say it is a fence, but your enforcement is civil court action. Regardless, the wording of your by-laws should be tightened so that it does not happen again. If your goal is to have unobstructed back yard views and solar access, it needs to be made very clear. Trees must have xxx' spacing, border shrubs to grow no higher than xxx', etc. Clearly state the objective, then provide specific examples, and provide wording that the examples are "including but not necessarily limited to..." There will always be someone looking for a loophole.

Water Planner

But when is a fence a screen. A fence in the truest sense is a physical barrier that denies access or escape. The solid features of a fence, wire, boards, metal spikes, whatever convey a message that you are not to enter or that you are to stay within with a surface to enforce that message. A row of wooden or steel poles spaced 3 feet apart would not a true fence make, right??

I'm not so sure that an Arborvitae screen says the same thing as a fence. Everyone knows that you can slide easily through an arborvitae screen planting, I've done it many times while planting them. And everyone knows that an arborvitae screen planting does not deter dogs, cats, deer, birds, or children from moving seemingly effortlessly through that green barrier. A fence?? not exactly, more like a visual screen or green property line. Think of that concept in the bylaws. Gus Drum