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The North Bend Eagle


Council, planning commission disagree on moving setbacks

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/24/11

An effort to change certain zoning ordinances led to a spirited debate at the Aug. 16 meeting of the North Bend City Council.

North Bend’s planning commission and the city council agreed on all of the proposed changes, except for three, which the planning commission did not want to see changed.

Despite the commission’s unanimous recommendation not to change fence and accessory building setbacks, the council is considering Ordinance 508, which would reduce the setback distances.

The three points of disagreement between the planning commission’s recommendation and Ordinance 508 are as follows:

Accessory building setbacks from a platted alley: Platted alleys in North Bend are 16 feet wide. This puts each property line eight feet from center of the alley. Current regulations require that an accessory building be set back at least 10 feet from that property line. Ordinance 508 would reduce that required setback distance to five feet.
This zoning change would only affect blocks with platted alleys. Blocks north of 11th Street and east of Catapla Street do not have platted alleys, and the setbacks there would remain at 10 feet.

Accessory building setback from property line on side yards: Current rules require accessory buildings in a side yard to be 10 feet from the property line. Ordinance 508 would reduce the setback to five feet. Unlike the alley setbacks, this change would affect all lots in town.

fence setbacks

Fence setbacks from the street: Current setback rules dictate that a fence in a side yard (fences are not allowed in front yards) be at least 25 feet from the property line. Most property lines in North Bend are 40 feet from the center of the street, though some are only 33 feet or some other distance depending on the width of the street.
Ordinance 508 would remove the 25-foot setback requirement, allowing fences to be built right up to and along the property line.

Several examples around town do not meet regulations, but they were grandfathered in when the current code book was adopted in 1999.

Discussion at Tuesday’s meeting centered around the potential new fence regulations.

Dan Hoops, who lives a block from NBC high school, spoke in favor of leaving the fence setbacks where they are.

“I don’t think (fences) need to move any closer to the street in our area,” Hoop said. “There are a lot of school kids that walk up in the grass since there are no sidewalks there. You should give the kids a chance to walk on the yards or wherever they have to walk to stay out of the streets. On football and sports nights, the street are wild up there.”

Alex Legge, a former city councilman and current member of the planning commission, defended the commission’s recommendation to leave the setbacks as they are. He said the traffic situation near his house was similar to that of the Hoops’s. Fences closer to the street reduce the visibility of other traffic and/or children playing in yards or driveways, Legge said.

Mayor Jeff Kluthe did the most speaking in favor of reducing the setbacks. He said safety was not an issue, since North Bend would still be observing “sight triangles,” as dictated by state law. These are determined by measuring 60 feet up two intersecting streets. The imaginary line that connects the two points 60 feet from the intersection form the sight triangle. Nothing can be put or built in this triangle that would obstruct a driver’s vision.

Kluthe argued that if the sight triangle was safe enough for the state of Nebraska, it should be safe enough for North Bend. Legge disagreed.

“I think that there’s areas in town where that sight triangle might be sufficient, where there’s not such fast through traffic,” Legge said. “I don’t think it’s sufficient on my street or on Hoops’s street.”

Kluthe said the proposed reductions to the setbacks were about giving people more freedom to use the land they own.

“As long as you are observing safety,” Kluthe said, “give more people room so they can do stuff in their yard.”

Councilman Tim Blackmon said the council has received enough requests to change the setbacks to warrant looking into amending the fence ordinances.

“Right now, it’s so restrictive that you step out your door and the fence is going to be right there,” Blackmon said. “Then you have an acre of grass outside your fence. What’s the point of that?”

Kluthe agreed that the current fence setbacks left little room to do anything on most lots in town.

“What we have right now is a blanket, ‘Nope, you’re not building a fence,’” the mayor said. “That’s pretty much what it is.”

Kluthe also noted that the planning commission is only an advisory board to the city council. The final decision on any changes to city ordinances lie with the council.

Legge, a planning commission member, did not dispute that statement.

“There’s a lot of good heads on the planning commission,” Legg said. “I think they all put a lot of thought on it and we all came to the same conclusion (against the changes).”

Though the agenda called for a vote to bypass the statutory rule requiring three readings of a new ordinance before it is voted upon, Kluthe said Ordinance 508 would undergo the three readings after all. A vote is scheduled to take place at the council’s Sept. 20 meeting after the third reading.

In other council business:

• The council reviewed the 2011-2012 city budget with Steve Pleskac of the Erickson & Brook accounting firm.

Several members of the Library Foundation attended the meeting. Member Deanna Wolf asked if the city was going in increase its budget for the library to pay for the higher operating costs of the new library.

Mayor Kluthe said the city wasn’t going to start moving money around until it knew how much was going to be required by the new library.

“We know (costs) are going to be higher,” Kluthe said, “but we don’t want to start guessing and start moving numbers to where we have money everywhere. We’re going to feel it out as we go.”

Wolf said the Foundation would keep the council in the loop as it purchases equipment that requires a monthly service contract.

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