Dayton neighbors argue about legality of fences

Some Dayton residents are fed up with what they say are illegal, unsightly fences in their neighborhoods.

Fred England, who lives on the 2500 block of East Fifth Street, said the property owner next door has a 6-foot-tall, chain-link fence that is ugly, impedes access to his property and hurts surrounding property values.

England said the fence violates city zoning codes. Other unlawful fences have gone up nearby and he believes more will be installed unless the city cracks down. “If they let this go, it’s going to escalate and it’s going to get a lot worse,” he said.

City leaders and housing inspection officials say they take zoning violations seriously because they affect quality of life, but they need citizens to report infractions.

Sharon Wakefield, who owns the property next to England’s, says she’s had tall fences at multiple properties in Dayton for years without any problems, and she plans to talk to an attorney about challenging the city’s legal order to take down the fence.

“There are a hell of a lot of chain-link fences that will come down if they make me take that one down,” she said. “I’ll go around and take pictures and I’ll raise hell, so they’re going to have a lot of cases if they make me take mine down.”

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England recently attended a Dayton city commission meeting where he complained about the fence on Wakefield’s property at 2521 E. Fifth St., as well as others in the neighborhood.

England said he complained to the planning department when the fence went up, but nothing has been done and he’s having trouble repairing his home because the fence prevents him from putting up a ladder.

“These fences are illegal, and you need a permit to put a fence up if it exceeds a certain length, height or it comes up to the house,” England said.

Parts of east Dayton have drug and crime issues, but 6-foot fences are unwelcoming, ugly, give the impression the neighborhood is dangerous and will drag down surrounding property values, England said.

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At some point since 2015, the property owner at 2521 E. Fifth St. illegally installed a fence taller than the maximum height limit of 42 inches, said Todd Kinskey, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

Wakefield disputes this, claiming her fence has been up at least six or seven years.

The city in July issued a notice to the owner to remove or adjust the fence to comply with city code, Kinskey said.

The city issued a legal order on Nov. 25 directing the property owner to bring the fence into compliance. The notice was posted on the property and was sent via certified mail, said Shauna Hill, Dayton’s division manager of housing inspection.

Hill also said housing inspection will be issuing courtesy notices to 2519 and 2601-2603 E. Fifth St. about illegal fences on those properties.

The properties, which also have 6-foot, chain-link fences, also belong to Wakefield, according to Montgomery County real estate records.

Wakefield said she will be talking to an attorney about challenging the legal order.

Wakefield said her tenants love the fences because they provide security and safety and can’t be easily scaled.

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Hill said housing inspection regularly gets complaints about chain-link fences, which are not permitted in front yards or corner side yards.

But city code has changed over the years, and some fences are “grandfathered” in because they were erected before the current rules took effect, she said.

Property owners with illegal fences can be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor, but most owners fix violations after being issued a courtesy warning or notice, Hill said.

Mayor Nan Whaley said recently she has heard more citizens’ complaints about fences. She said there are probably some illegal fences in Dayton.

She said citizens should research the city's zoning code before installing any fencing. She said citizens should file complaints when they believe their neighbors' fencing is unlawful.

“I think that city staff is usually generally responsive to citizens and the commission when they say, ‘This is a concern,’” Whaley said. “We have to pay attention to quality-of-life issues in the neighborhoods. High fences are an issue.”

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