Request to amend fence ordinance falls short

AM Fence Barren
Commissioner Amy Tripp is worried that too many front yards in Anna Maria are fenced with vinyl with no streetside landscaping. - Amy Tripp | Submitted

ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria commissioner Amy Tripp is concerned about the increasing number of solid vinyl fences and the lack of landscaping along the city’s residential streets.

Tripp’s fellow commissioners do not share her concerns.

On Thursday, Jan. 10, Tripp made an impassioned but unsuccessful plea for the commission to consider amending the city’s fence ordinance to better address non-transparent front yard fencing and additional landscaping requirements.

When making her PowerPoint presentation, Tripp expressed her belief that the city’s governing body has a responsibility to protect and preserve the city’s natural beauty and habitat and she believes an amended fence ordinance would help accomplish that.

AM Fence Tripp
Commissioner Amy Tripp recently made an impassioned plea to amend the city’s fence ordinance. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

She did not seek to impose new restrictions on existing front yard fences or existing and future back and side yard fences.

Before making her presentation, Tripp looked at how some other Florida cities and counties address front yard fencing and landscaping.

“In Sarasota, they speak of this visual vista and that is one of the things I feel like we are starting to lose by these barrier fences that are going up in the neighborhoods,” Tripp told the commission.

She noted that Anna Maria’s existing sign ordinance prohibits masonry, stone, brick, block or concrete walls.

“This is a shared environment and I think it’s up to us to protect it.”
– Amy Tripp, Anna Maria Commissioner

Front yard fences are limited to four feet in height and side and back yards fences are limited to six feet. Tripp believes the existing fence material prohibitions reflect previous city commissions’ intent to prevent fences that create a barrier effect.

“Where did you get that that was their intent? That’s not in the ordinance,” Commissioner Doug Copeland said, noting that he never understood why those fence materials were prohibited.

Tripp’s presentation included a photo of a house at the corner of Gladiolus Street and Jacaranda Street that has vinyl front yard fencing running parallel to both streets, with landscaping behind the fence, but only shells and gravel in front of it.

“It’s not so much the material, it’s the application of it being solid. They run the fence right up to the lot line, therefore no landscaping can go on the outside of it. But notice, on the inside it’s really lush. This is a shared environment and I think it’s up to us to protect it,” Tripp said.

She showed a photo of another property with solid vinyl front yard fencing that features landscaping between it and the street.

“They moved the fence up, so they could landscape on the outside,” Tripp said when expressing her view that this creates a more desirable appearance.

AM Fence Landscaped
Commissioner Amy Tripp wishes more of Anna Maria’s front yards looked like this. – Amy Tripp | Submitted

Tripp said Collier County requires see-through front yard fencing and landscaping in the three-foot setback between the fence and the street-side right of way.

“I think we should promote this type of fencing with this type of landscaping. I want an island with green space. What I’m seeing is a sterile look,” she said.

“A person has a right to privacy on their own property,” Commissioner Brian Seymour said of those who opt for solid front yard fences.

Commissioner Carol Carter said she agrees with Tripp from an aesthetic perspective, but the residents she spoke with don’t feel they should be forced to adhere to the commission’s aesthetic preferences for fencing.

“We have so much solid, non-landscaped fencing out there now that I don’t think a change in the ordinance will make that much difference to the visual vista of the city,” Carter said.

“I think the damage is done,” Seymour said.

Repeating something he’s stated before, Commissioner Dale Woodland said he doesn’t want the city of Anna Maria to feel like one big homeowners’ association. He likes the idea of promoting fence and landscaping elements that address Tripp’s concerns, but he doesn’t want them to be mandatory.

“It’s not a safety issue, it’s a perspective issue,” Woodland said.