After a two-year delay, the 28 residents with hedge problems will finally have the chance to get their appeals heard later this year.
City Planner Tony Kim told the Planning Commission they would begin working on the appeals in June. The work will consist of compiling a record for each case, verification of the site conditions, reviewing the submitted evidence, contacting the appellant and the neighboring property owner to schedule a hearing, and preparing the staff report as well as documenting the Commission’s appeal decision.
Kim also mentioned that the acceptable forms of evidence from appellants would be testimony, pictures, written statements, expense records, health records, consultant reports, and other items. The Commission voted unanimously that the appellant should submit an evidence packet to the neighbor whose fence, wall, and/or hedge they are objecting to 45 days prior to the scheduled appeal hearing. The written argument cannot be more than five pages in length, though the packet can include as many exhibits (pictures, consultant reports, etc.) as the appellant would like. On the day of the hearing, the appellant will also need to submit the evidence packet to the City.
The neighbor can give their response after receiving the appellant’s packet (38 days before the hearing) to both the appellant and the City. The page limit is the same.
Both parties must also retain some form of evidence as to when the evidence was delivered to the other party and the City. The appellant and the neighbor will each be allowed to submit one additional page of information to the Commission on the day of the hearing.
The appeals will be heard at the beginning of regular Planning Commission meetings. Kim recommended that the appellants be given seven minutes to speak, plus three minutes for public rebuttal.
Katie Santore, who is filing an appeal, echoed the sentiments of the other appellants at the March 5 meeting. “We’ve waited for two years to be heard. Just 10 minutes isn’t enough.”
The Commission responded by voting to allow each side to speak for 10 minutes, plus three minutes for rebuttal, and one minute for public input.
Other appellants told the Commission they still didn’t know how to go about proving their case. “I’m a victim. How do I prove I’m a victim?” Bahman Kianmahd told the Commission. “I have absolutely no idea about how to approach this.”
This issue started when the original 1948 ordinance which limited fences and hedges in front yards of private houses to 42 inches and side and rear fences and hedges to eight feet – unless they were hazardous or obstructed vision – was suddenly enforced by the City beginning in January 2004.