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Narrow gaps in picket fence raise concern

A new picket fence on Bennett Street led a neighbor to complain that it's hard to get a good view pulling out of her driveway.

Now the Common Council would like to alter city codes to keep sightlines clear.

Building Inspector Cosimo Capozzi, who spoke at the Council's Tuesday evening workshop session, will research fence and hedge codes in other municipalities and propose a change to be considered at another workshop session in two weeks.

"This is really the first time we've seen a picket fence with the pickets that small," Capozzi said.

The Bennett Street fence, about a month old, meets current city rules that say it should be no taller than four feet and gaps should be the same size as the pickets.

It's just that these gaps -- an inch and a half -- are narrower and harder to see through than the old, more visible fence-gap norm of 2 1/4 inches, Capozzi said.

While a future code change will not affect the fence on Bennett, the neighbor's problem seeing through it as she pulls out of her driveway is a sign that fences are changing and the city should adjust accordingly, said Richard Andres, Common Council president.

The skinnier pickets seem to be a newly popular vinyl style of fence, he said. "They're getting cheaper, and we've got to get in front of them," he said.

Capozzi also offered to come up with a solution for the neighbor worried about the safety of pulling out when the narrower, but legal, fence along her driveway impedes her view.

After going to Bennett Street to look at the situation, he said he would be willing to mediate. Perhaps the neighbors could share the cost of putting in an easier-to-see-through fence.

"I'd be willing to try to broker that deal," he said. "That's going to be strictly voluntary."

For now, Capozzi said, pulling out of the driveway involves the same sort of caution that he uses when he finds himself parked next to a big van in a parking lot: He moves out slowly.