Cape resident in dispute over city regulations on fences

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Stan Wicks fenced off his swimming pool for privacy. But Cape Girardeau city zoning regulations could force him to take down the two fences that he spent over $8,000 erecting.

One is a 5-foot, white vinyl fence, and the other is a 6-foot, wooden fence that sits on his swimming pool deck built just behind the white fence.

City officials say the two fences resemble one tall wall, far exceeding the 6-foot height allowed for fences in residential neighborhoods. In addition, the two fences extend past the front of his house at 121 N. West End Blvd. in violation of city zoning laws.

Robb McClary, director of the city's inspection services, said regulations require front-yard fences to be decorative -- there must be space between the slats or bars -- and no taller than 3 feet.

But Wicks said he really has two front yards because his house sits at the corner of West End Boulevard and Themis.

Wicks questions the city regulations, which make little sense to him. "It is kind of goofy," said Wicks, who ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2000 and mayor in 2002.

Wicks requested a variance, but the city's five-member board of adjustment refused to approve it Thursday. Wicks said he plans to appeal the board's action, a move that will require him to take his case to circuit court.

He owns a general maintenance company and said he and his wife have spent thousands of dollars fixing up their 102-year-old house, installing a swimming pool and fencing off part of their yard.

Wicks said city inspectors approved the placement of the above-ground pool in the summer of 2001 but never told him about the fence regulations.

Had he known, Wicks said, he would have moved the pool back so the two fences wouldn't infringe on the front yard. Wicks said the vinyl fence was erected about two years ago. The deck fence went up this summer.

"Nobody ever mentioned there was an imaginary line I couldn't cross," Wicks said.

Anonymous complaint

McClary said the problem surfaced about two months ago as the result of an anonymous complaint.

Without a variance, Wicks would have to move back the fence line and lower the height of the fence to meet city regulations, McClary said.

The city, he said, doesn't want to prosecute Wicks in municipal court. If it came to that, Wicks could face a $500 fine and a 30-day jail sentence.

Violators typically are fined, McClary said.

Wicks knows the two fences combined extend up higher than a normal residential fence. But he said he should have the right to put up a privacy fence on his deck.

Without it, the deck is barely lower than the outer fence. Wicks said that would leave little privacy for him, his wife and daughters when they use the swimming pool. He also said it would be hard to move back the fences because of the short distance to the pool.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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