It shouldn’t take six months to find out whether you can put up a fence. It also shouldn’t cost $1,000 to get a decision.
Those ought to be the starting points for any discussion of fences in Riverside. Now, whether or not a particular fence — at least one that requires a variation from the zoning code — will eventually be deemed allowable is another story and deserves the full consideration of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the village board.
Trustee Jean Sussman is correct in her assessment that a fence could have as great an impact as a large addition or vast new home on Riverside’s quest for open, uninterrupted green space along its public right of ways.
Yet there are cases where residents deserve to get a zoning hearing without having to come up with $1,000 to do so. Sure it should be difficult to get a variation, but it shouldn’t be hopelessly so.
In the case before the board at present, a resident wants to put up a fence that costs about $2,000. To expect another $1,000 on top of that just to get a zoning hearing is, indeed, punitive.
And this is definitely a case that should be heard because we don’t believe this woman is alone in the way her property is arranged. The house is situated on a corner lot and was built, many decades ago, so that it essentially has no backyard. The only “backyard” is a side yard.
But the complicated zoning code would only allow the homeowner to enclose a very small area without a variation. This homeowner has been waiting to get a decision on whether she can build her fence since last December.
One argument says, pay the 1,000 bucks and have your hearing. Maybe some Riversiders can dole out that kind of cash whenever they want to make a small improvement to their properties. You shouldn’t have to do that in order to get a zoning ruling on a fence.
This homeowner may eventually be told she can’t build her fence. That isn’t the issue. Riverside needs to make it easier for its citizens to get answers to these kinds of questions.