NPR cleaning up, modifying fencing ordinance

The New Port Richey City Council voted in favor of cleaning up and clarifying its city code requirements for fences on residential, commercial and industrial properties.

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city’s 180-day moratorium on constructing new front-yard fences in residentially zoned districts is expiring and cleaned-up, modified requirements are set to be put in place.

The City Council heard and unanimously approved the first reading of Ordinance No. 2021-2224 on Feb. 2 and was set to hear the second and final reading at the Feb. 16 regular meeting.

“The city’s fence regulations provide minimal standards that do not encourage compatibility with neighborhood character,” according to Feb. 2 agenda item backup materials. In addition to incompatibilities, civil engineering and planning firm Wade Trim Inc. found that fence regulations were found in two sections of the city’s existing code.

“Not only does the ordinance you see in front of you deal with front-yard fences, but it cleans up the code to make it consistent and remove duplications,” said planning and land use consultant Brad Cornelius of Wade Trim.

Right now, fence requirements can be found in Chapter 6 of the City Code and Chapter 12 of the Land Development Code. The new ordinance would place all fence code requirements in Chapter 12 of the LCD, Cornelius explained.

Highlights of the ordinance include separating residential and commercial fence code requirements, creating separate standards for fences in the front, side and rear of structures, and listing permitted and prohibited fence materials and heights.

Residential front-yard fences may not exceed 3 feet in height, fence posts cannot extend more than a foot above the top rail, and colors are limited to black, white, metallic, stained wood or a “complimentary neutral color consistent with home color,” according to a PowerPoint slide displayed by Cornelius. Front-yard fence materials are limited to wood, metal, wrought iron or aluminum, PVC panels or pickets and masonry. Prohibited materials include barbed wire, electric fencing, corrugated metal, sheet aluminum, wire, chain-link and steel rebar not fully encased in concrete.

Side- and rear-yard fences may be a maximum of 6 feet in height or 4 feet if those yards are adjacent to a roadway or river. Colors must be consistent with front-yard fencing and chain-link fencing is permitted for side and back yards.

One individual spoke during public comment and raised a question about existing fencing in front yards, specifically chain link, and whether or not those residents would be affected.

“The way the ordinance is proposed, it will not require people to tear down their existing fence,” Cornelius responded. “This is for new fences that are going up.”

Mayor Rob Marlowe asked why a prohibition against chain link in front yards was included.

“Part of it is because we’re looking for an enhanced design feature in the front and that’s not an uncommon standard in other governments to have the front be what’s considered more aesthetically pleasing,” Cornelius said. “We feel like we want to maintain very aesthetic front yards in the city, and we think prohibiting the chain link fence will help that to occur.”

Interim Councilman Mike Peters asked how situations would be dealt with if portions of current, non-conforming fences required replacement. As long as the entire fence wasn’t removed and rebuilt, Cornelius said, the damaged portion could be replaced to match what exists.

Council members expressed their support of the ordinance and did suggest additional clarifications ahead of the second reading on Feb. 16. Peters suggested additional language be added in reference to riverside fencing and a structure’s distance from the bank.

Cornelius added that property owners wishing to erect fencing that doesn’t completely comply with the new ordinance may still come to the city. “If someone wants to do something different, they always have the ability to go through a variance process with the city to request something different than what the standard is.”

City moves forward with waste hauling changes

Big changes to how the city’s trash is collected won’t be noticed for a few years, but the City Council is moving forward with the process of limiting the number of haulers operating on New Port Richey streets.

The council held a special meeting and public hearing earlier this month to continue a lengthy process that may result in contracting with one waste hauling company to service all New Port Richey city residents. This Feb. 2 meeting was a follow-up to a work session discussion on Jan. 26.

While there is a consensus among board members to reduce the number of companies operating within the city, the staff recommendation of contracting with just one remains a debate. Six companies collect city waste currently, though one specializes in construction and demolition, not residential. Another, County Sanitation, only services The Wilds subdivision.

“I believe in competition breeds quality of product,” said Councilman Chopper Davis. “I don’t have any problem with two, but I do have a problem with one.”

“My inclination would be to have multiple zones with multiple haulers,” Marlowe said. “If one hauler falls down on the job and we’ve already got one or two other haulers doing separate sections of the city, it’s going to be a lot easier for us to terminate the one hauler and get the others to step in and cover the gap, as opposed to if we have a single hauler for the entire city and they don’t do the job.”

The council’s action this month allows the city to move forward with the process of working with existing companies in a process going to a single-hauler system. Based on state law, the city must wait three years before doing so. City Manager Debbie Manns said that period will be used to further analyze each company’s performance and tend to necessary logistical issues.

Public Works Director Robert Rivera said all current hauling companies have met with city administrators and support the move to a single-hauler system. Rivera said the haulers also support the idea of the city taking over billing for services.

How the city takes over billing responsibilities will also need to be ironed out in the process. Staff and council members debated the merits of placing trash collection bills one of two places: property tax bills or water and sewer bills.

“I am not a big fan of the property tax bills,” Marlowe said. “I think that’s a mistake. I’d far rather see it on the utility bills. If there’s a problem in collecting the water and sewer on the rentals, then maybe we need to address that and put those bills as the responsibility of the property owner and not the tenants.”