“Violators” mad, baffled after Dallas tickets 20-plus homeowners for too-tall fences

Fences, walls—always stirring things up. Courtesy PXHERE

A Preston Hollow-area homeowner received a citation for a fence exceeding six feet. She’s been living within the fence for almost 20 years, and it was there when she moved in, so, odd, huh? Many of her neighbors received the same notice of violation.

Did you even know homeowners/builders must obtain special permission from the City of Dallas to own a fence that is more than 6 feet tall?

That’s so Dirk can enjoy some privacy in his own backyard, right? I jest and digress, for the ballplayer presumably has no complaints regarding his luxurious Preston Hollow home.

But the 6-foot thing, it’s essentially true (some developers receive more encompassing permits to build).

The city, back in the day, sometimes “swept” areas seeking code violations, Board of Adjustments staffer Steve Long says, “but I haven’t heard of that happening in a long time.”

Anyway, the old ordinance has some residents of a Preston Hollow area neighborhood, Schrieber Manor, taken aback.

Usually these arbitrary or lesser-known edicts are ignored until some neighbor complains (think Little Free Libraries or basketball hoops in the cul-de-sac), but “a City of Dallas spokesperson confirmed ‘a code inspector… conducting a proactive patrol… noted a lot tall fences’ in the area last month.” The inspector cited 21 homes on two adjacent streets for not having permits—so reports CBS DFW.

The city, according to the report at least, has given the alleged violators just seven days to “fix the problem” or pay fines in excess of $300.

Virginia Nisbet, who has lived in her home for almost 20 years was one of the first to speak with the station about this particular incident.

She’s shocked, as are some two dozen other property holders in the neighborhood.

Two doors down, Dr. Marcial Oquendo also received a citation for his fence. “Everyone’s already kind of mad about it, so when I got it I was also mad about it, because we just moved here,” he told the station.”

A few years back we took note of the rule when Jordon Speith filed for a fence permit. (The permit is $100).

At the time we had a staffer, Sam Gillespie, who, as a past 10-year Board of Adjustment member, wrote and educated the rest of us on such matters. The Board of Adjustments makes decisions when it comes to real estate issues but, unlike the Plan Commission or City Council, the Board of Adjustment normally doesn’t make the call about land use, we learned. “If a property owner wants to rezone a property from a single-family residential use to a multi-family residential use or from office to retail, the owner makes his or her case to the Plan Commission,” he noted.

The Board of Adjustment generally decides issues related to development standards in the different zoning categories. If a property is zoned for office but limits the height of structures and the owner wants to build higher than the limitation, the owner makes an appeal to the Board of Adjustment.That is, to adjust.

“The most re-occurring issue we faced was fence heights,” Gillespie told us.

“In most single-family zoning categories, the City of Dallas development code limits fence heights in front-yard setbacks to 4 feet. Drive down many streets in Preston Hollow where the teardown phenomena got it its start in Dallas and you will see one newly built mansion next to another. And what’s a sparkling 8,000-square-foot estate home without a big tall fence and even bigger taller gate between the home and the street? If it’s in the front-yard setback, every one of these fences received a variance from the board to build the fence higher than 4-feet.”

Read more of Gillespie’s insights here when you have a moment or the desire. We can discuss aesthetics and philosophy related to fences all day, but the issue at hand is a lack of awareness of the ordinance and what people who find themselves in violation can do. (Also, a little curious about this gung-ho code officer, but that also is for another time).

Board of Adjustments administrator Steve Long seemed pretty surprised to hear about the glut of citations his committee soon could be perusing. “I would want to know from Code [Compliance] how it came about that this many citations were written,” he says. He says some might not even materialize to his board. Some may be OK. It is tricky with code sometimes.

Residents can appeal the citation. If they pay the fine, of course, they still must remedy the problem or face a second citation and a third … you get the idea. They also may launch a public hearing process that could result in keeping their property as-is, but that process starts at $600.

Looking into this story created more questions—loads, to be frank. So we will catch you up as soon as we learn more.


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