Milford may mend fence law 
               Wednesday, July 26, 2000
              Beach barriers get 1st OK
              By JEFFREY MACDONALD       Correspondent

              MILFORD - For the first time since 1997, waterfront property owners
               would be able to erect beachside fences under a zoning proposal that
               received preliminary approval Tuesday. 

               A committee of the Planning and Zoning Board voted to urge the full
               board to let new fences go up wherever people live beside Long Island
               Sound, ponds, rivers or estuaries. 

               If the board approves the proposed regulation, it would be the city's first
               step in three years to allow new fence construction in beachfront areas.

               "By having a fence regulation, you're showing people the city will meet
               them part way," said Zoning and Regulations Committee chairman Mark
               Lofthouse. He said the regulation represents a compromise that retains
               public views of the water but allows those who want fences to have
               them. 

               As long as the fences have adequate spacing between pickets and are
               not more than four feet tall, property owners would be able to fence in
               their waterfront pools and yards. 

               The board is expected to vote on the proposal when it meets next
               Tuesday.

               Fencing has been controversial in Milford, where advocates for increased
               open space have criticized the board's attempt to allow more fencing at
               the waterfront. Others say waterfront property owners have the same
               rights to the privacy and safety that others get from fences. 

               Board member Betsey Wright noted that many who spoke at a June
               public hearing were opposed to new regulations that they said would
               obstruct public views. 

               "Safety is an issue, but it wasn't the issue that came before us," Wright
               said. "It was one pool." 

               The board has examined new fence regulations since earlier this year
               when a waterfront property owner found herself unable to install a pool.
               State regulations require a fence around a pool, but Milford zoning
               currently prohibits new fencing on the waterfront side of properties.
               Without a zoning change, she could not legally install a pool. 

               In 1997, a judge ruled that the city could not allow property owners to
               obscure public beach views. 

               "There were many petitions supporting the '97 regulation [prohibiting new
               fences] and many, many letters," Wright said. 

               The committee made some changes to the proposed regulation on the
               basis of last month's public input. Space between each fence picket will
               need to be wider than originally proposed, for instance, and plantings
               such as shrubbery may not exceed three feet in height along the
               waterfront. 

               "You can't please everybody," noted board member John Wicko. "A lot of
               people liked that there were no fences [on the waterfront], and no
               shrubs," he said. The shoreline "was clear and it still is clear." 

               Should the regulation prove onerous, board members expressed a
               willingness to go back to the drawing board. 

               "It can always be changed," Wicko said.