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Committee to submit feedback on fences

(ran East, South, editions)

As the city approached the end of a year and a half of planning over how to rewrite its land development regulations, one issue still needed input from the public.

So in late 2003, zoning official John Hixenbaugh approached members of the Council of Neighborhood Associations and asked for feedback on hedges, walls and fences.

Regulations governing these borders have changed slightly during the past five years, and needs vary between districts. Now a committee of 10 people, CONA members and nonmembers, is close to submitting its recommendations.

Cathryn Wilson, Greater Woodlawn's president and a committee member, said seeking out residents' views was wise because "90 percent of the problems are in neighborhoods.

"Basically, what the committee is looking at is how offensive is a fence, and how close can it be to a neighbor's property?"

Fences and walls are important enough that codes require a city review before they can be added to a neighborhood. Mobile home parks must have fences or hedges at least 6 feet tall at the borders of residential lots.

Ordinances on fence heights vary from district to district, and street to street. If you live on an ordinary neighborhood street (not a collector such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, or an "arterial" road feeding into a collector), you can have a fence in your front yard up to 4 feet tall.

If you live on an arterial or collector road, that same fence can go as high as 6 feet, including rear and side yard fences. Waterfront yards are not included, and are limited to 4 feet in height, and then only if they are chain-link; otherwise a waterfront fence can rise no higher than 3 feet.

The city uses fences and buffer walls to shield residents from alleys, day care centers, liquor stores and social service centers such as homeless shelters or food centers.

Build a fence or a wall in an industrial park, and prepare to mind your p's and q's. Codes require these artificial boundaries to conform to the architectural design of the site as a whole, and forbids any kitsch architecture designed not like buildings but "giant oranges, ice cream cones, dinosaurs and the like."

To build a fence over the set height limit requires a variance from the Board of Adjustment, which cost $500 to request.

In a preliminary report issued in December, the committee recommended that height restrictions be loosened to accommodate arches over gate openings, and height maximums increased for side and rear yards.

"We want to relax some regulations, and make others more consistent," Wilson said.

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Spirits are running high in Historic Kenwood these days. The neighborhood between Interstate 275 and 34th Street, from Central to Ninth Avenue N, recently won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, which confers tax benefits on homeowners who renovate.

A new Web site with a message board is up and running at www.historickenwood.org.

Now the group wants to commemorate its beginnings as one of the city's fist neighborhoods with a March 14 Founder's Day celebration. That Sunday, residents will gather in Seminole Park, Third Avenue and 29th Street N, and remember developer Charles Hall among others.

Hall in 1912 bought two tracts of land totaling 160 acres between 25th and 31st streets, from First Avenue S to Fifth Avenue N, and platted the property for homes. The neighborhood became known for its one-story cottages or bungalows with wide porches that are the featured attraction of an annual tour the neighborhood has given regularly.

Hall went on to buy most of the property on what is now Lakewood Estates, according to historian Ray Arsenault in his book, St. Petersburg and the Florida Dream. Michael Miller, Historic Kenwood's new president, cited another recurring piece of neighborhood lore: In the 1930s, more than 170 houses were moved into the area.

Historic Kenwood meets at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday at Albright United Methodist Church, 2750 Fifth Ave. N. Preparing for the Founder's Day event and brainstorming on the future in a visioning plan fill out the docket.

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