Dear Ace: Recently, I was driving past the Old Trail development out in Crozet and saw that they’d built a tall screening fence along Jarman’s Gap Road. I noticed that the fence-side is facing Old Trail and the post-side is facing the road. I always thought when you built a fence, your neighbors were supposed to see the fence side. Is there a fencing ordinance in Albemarle?—Rob Art Frost
Rob: Ace must admit, he’s a little disappointed with your question. You see, Ace has gotten to the point where whenever he gets a question, he just skips straight to whatever ends in a question mark. When he saw “Is there a fencing ordinance in Albemarle?” visions of swashbuckling and derring-do flashed through Ace’s mind, and he thought he might settle once and for all whether or not he legally can go Errol Flynn on someone’s ass out in the county. But hey, zoning laws are fun too! Ace talked with Francis MacCall, senior planner for Albemarle County, to get the scoop.
Aesthetics and good neighborliness aside, Old Trail’s screening fence shows you its backside on Jarman’s Gap Road.
MacCall tells Ace that there’s not much stopping anyone from building one of those “hate-thy-neighbor” fences. In fact, there’s nothing much in the Albemarle County Code about fences at all. There’s some zoning stuff about fences and streams (you can’t erect a fence or a building within 65′ of one), but the only Albemarle County Code sections of any real substance (Ace, of course, is speaking in relative terms here—a fence ordinance ain’t exactly the PATRIOT Act) are about keeping the public out of open construction sites and bodies of water where they shouldn’t be, and—finally!—about erecting fences along road frontage.
Section 18.4.4 of the Albemarle County Code says that “no material impediment to visibility shall be placed, allowed to grow, erected or maintained on any parcel” so as to restrict sight distance at intersections. That means if a roadside fence is blocking visibility, it’s gotta go.
So Rob, if you find seeing the post-side of the fence at Old Trail so visually distracting that you’re running stop signs and endangering frolicking youth, Ace reckons you could maybe put in a call to the zoning commission. Otherwise, you’ve got nothin’. “Good fences make good neighbors,” (Ace’s ass).