The Tomball City Council recently approved changes to city rules governing fences after some long discussion over two meetings.
The council had previously tabled the changes during the Dec. 17 meeting, after asking City Planner Rebecca Guerra to add additional requirements and standards to the already proposed changes.
"We came before you and you requested that the item be tabled and that staff reexamine items," Guerra told council.
The proposed changes include allowing for a maximum height of eight feet, except in front yards, where the maximum height would be six feet for lots five acres and larger and four feet for lots less than five acres.
Guerra also told council that city planning staffers were proposing that fences not be a danger to life or property. She said that was a minimum standard that would not require too many staff hours to enforce.
Councilman Preston Dodson felt that language was not strong enough.
"My problem is that there is no meaningful requirement that these fences be maintained," he said. "In my view, having a fence falling down or slats falling off – and we have places in Tomball right now – it detracts from the city. It detracts from the value of the property and the property adjacent to it."
Council decided to add language stating that a fence is to be maintained at all times and that it would be unlawful to allow a fence to lean or have missing, loose or broken slats or panels.
A large part of the discussion was about chain link fencing.
Staff initially proposed that chain link fences be prohibited; stating that they thought that was the direction council had led them. Councilman Derek Townsend said that he was misunderstood, however, and wanted a discussion about chain link fencing in front yards only.
Townsend had issues with the proposed changes affecting property owners pocketbooks, especially if their fencing was damaged by natural occurrences.
"I don't think it is government's job to make you spend money," he said.
Guerra said that replacing fencing with allowable materials would only be in the instance that 50 percent or more of the fence was damaged or destroyed.
"I have issues with that," Townsend said. "This fencing is extremely expensive and we have had a significant drought that caused a lot of trees to fall."
In the end council agreed to pass the ordinance, which will now allow for fencing up to the property line in front yards and will allow chain link fences in the back yard of a residence. The measure passed, with Townsend being the only no vote.
In other business the council gave final approval for the Tomball Economic Development Corporation to give more than $56,000 to One Moore Holdings Inc. to build a large dry cleaning and laundry facility in Tomball. The money is to be used for infrastructure costs.
The council also gave final approval to annexing the land that Baker Hughes will build a new training facility at on the corner of FM 2978 and FM 2920, while also approving zoning changes to allow for a training oil well on that site.
Council members once again chose the Tribune as the city's official newspaper for 2013.
The council also set the upcoming municipal election day as May 11 of this year, while also allowing the fire department to receive a new brush truck from the Texas A&M Forestry Service.