Dont Fence Me In. (cole Porter)

By: Jerry Clifford

Cole Porter was not thinking of his neighbor when he composed that song, but he could have been as fences can often cause problems between two otherwise friendly neighbors.

There are many reasons why we may want to build or improve a fence. Of course privacy issues are obvious; also there is the problem of the neighbor's children or dogs over flowing into your yard. But some people really want to feel safe at home, and having a sturdy fence all around the property is a good start to security.

However, your neighbor may like to look out onto his yard, and admire the lawn which extends into your yard, giving him a lovely open outlook. Then BOOM, up goes a big, long swathe of wood cutting into his rural vision. The feeling of spaciousness is reduced by a solid screen of ugly brown fencing. He may feel the fence is a message i.e. keep to yourself.

New and/or altered fences are often shared costs in North America, so this neighborly problem can be avoided by diplomatic discussion about cost/choices etc. However, if a small fence is in place or preferred by one neighbor who does not want the expense or lack of view that will change it, a problem can develop.

In some other parts of the world, a different system may operate. In UK the fence out back to your left is your responsibility. In some Eastern European countries that had communist regimes, there was no problem. The fences were pulled down to detract from the feeling of having privacy!

Before you have a disagreement with your neighbor, check out your fencing local by-laws. There are certain rules regarding the height and (sometimes) the material of the side, front and back fences. Before any heated discussions get under way, avoid embarrassment and make sure you are within your rights!

There is such a thing as applying to your local city council/region/locality for a variance. This means you want a variation from the normal ruling. It is usually only granted for a good reason - and sometimes not even then! Beware involving the city too quickly, they may tell you to cut down your trees -or not to - and get more involved with your property than you would have wished!

Many people try and work a fence into their landscaping design to minimize the intrusion of the fence into the green look of Nature. This can be done by planting trees along the boundary line and using them as posts for wire netting. The wire is then hidden by bushes, shrubs and other foliage. Always use evergreen bushes as the background shrub, so that you do not see the fence in the winter when all else has died down.

Another form of fencing (in certain areas) that will harmonize with Nature is the cactus fence. However, this may not be considered too friendly by your neighbor! The poet Robert Frost told us that "good fences make good neighbors", but perhaps he should have added, 'only if carefully negotiated before construction!

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