Tuesday, July 25, 2006

To the Fences

It has been over a year now since Council member Ludye Wallace deferred an ill-advised attempt to prohibit any and all front-yard fences. In the name of eradicating chain-links in front yards, he seemed bent on prohibiting wood, iron, hedge, and stone fences until he got a flurry of e-mails opposing his bill. (How Ludye can see a chain-link fence as an eyesore, but not see a video billboard as an eyesore is beyond me).

Ludye's bill is back, but now it has a much more narrow focus than last year's mistake. The bill attempts to:
prohibit chain link fences along arterial and collector streets. The Code currently prohibits the use of barbed or razor wire on fences along sidewalks within the urban services district. This ordinance would essentially prohibit any chain link fence along the right-of-way of a collector or arterial street, which are the classifications used for the major streets and roads in Davidson County. This ordinance would apply to both the urban services district and the general services district, and would prohibit chain link fences in both commercial and residential areas.

The council office would point out that this ordinance could result in a substantial cost to the Metropolitan Government, especially schools, if Metro facilities were required to have stone, brick or wood fences.
That last point seems to be sticking as the bill came up once again on second reading this past Tuesday during Council meeting, but Ludye once again deferred it (supported by Council voice vote) upon Public Works recommendation.

I have got to say that I find chain-link fences subjectively ugly; no two ways about it. So, passage of Ludye's bill would only benefit me personally. But I also question whether outlawing them at the Council level is the best way to go. It seems to me that neighborhoods are better able to determine whether they should be prohibited on a case-by-case basis. My personal peeves with them notwithstanding, chain-links serve lots of utilitarian purposes for people who can otherwise not afford the more expensive, higher quality, and more attractive materials. Someone may look at my wood fence and find it butt-ugly compared to a wrought iron masterpiece, but that doesn't mean that I should be required to pay thousands of dollars more for a masterpiece or have nothing, when all I require is the more modest fence I have.

We seem stranded in Ludye-land, where priorities are misplaced and where those likely to suffer the most are the more vulnerable families who may require a fence, but who face a representative determined to price them out of that possibility. If the Council passes Ludye's bill, but also exempts certain Metro properties like schools from the prohibition, then they also need to make exceptions for lower-middle and lower class home-owners who will be unduly burdened by passage, while also acknowledging the role of neighborhood associations in determining rules governing fences, given the character of the neighborhoods.

There are still enough unsightly and unsavory problems in District 19 (with the potential for more later) without this bill. Ludye needs to re-map his priorities.

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