Sunday, July 28, 2019

Following Up with the Fence

On Friday, the Historic Preservation Commission made a site visit to Willard Place and then held a public hearing on the proposal to install a privacy fence in front of 10 Willard Place.

Presenting his case at the public hearing, the applicant argued there was no buffer between his house and pedestrian and vehicular traffic. He noted that all other houses have backyards, but his has none. He complained that people came onto his yard to take pictures of the historic houses on Willard Place, children were allowed to play on his lawn, a neighbor's dog had attacked him in his yard, his yard was used as a staging area for work crews, and dozens of cars drove past his house throughout the day to look at the architecture of Willard Place.

The only person to speak at the public hearing asked the applicant if he was adamant about wanting a wooden fence and suggested that an ornate metal fence would be more appropriate. HPC chair Phil Forman read two written comments that had been submitted: one from neighbors on Willard Place; the other from Kate Johns, the architect member of the HPC. The neighbors urged the HPC to find a suitable solution and made reference to the fence surrounding the garden at St. Mary's Church.

Johns described what was proposed as "a suburban backyard enclosure inappropriately positioned in a front yard" and opined, "That type of fence in that location is just awkward."

When the members of the HPC began deliberating on the proposal, Hugh Biber expressed the opinion that an open fence with plantings would be more appropriate. John Schobel called the fence at St. Mary's "one of our most successful compromises," and went on to say, "It looks urban. It is not a true privacy fence, but [a space within the fence] is completely private." He told the applicant, "An open fence plus plantings would be more in keeping with the neighborhood and easier for this commission to approve." 

Before calling for a vote to approve or deny a certificate of appropriateness, Forman told the applicant that he was "moved by his desire for privacy" but continued, "There is not a lot a enthusiasm for redefining the look of the cul de sac." He encouraged the applicant to "take another look and reconsider the material."

When Forman called for a vote, the five members of the HPC present--Forman, Biber, Schobel, Phillip Schwartz, and Paul Barrett--voted unanimously to deny a certificate of appropriateness.


  1. Thank goodness! The whole house shouldn't be there; much less a fence. That was meant to be a garden park and was illegally sold. Why make it even more awful by adding an ugly wooden fence?