Chapter 21.10
FENCE, HEDGE AND VISION OBSTRUCTION REGULATIONS

Sections:

21.10.050    Purpose.

21.10.100    Fence and hedge standards.

21.10.200    Electric fences.

21.10.300    Barbed wire fences.

21.10.400    Vision obstruction by signs along public streets.

21.10.900    Exceptions.

21.10.050 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide regulations for fences, hedges, and other partially or totally vision obscuring installations to assure that desirable objectives of providing privacy, security, and screening of certain uses from streets and less intense uses can be met while minimizing undesirable obstruction of views, light, air, and motorists’ and pedestrians’ vision. It is recognized that along streets these goals may conflict. Fences along streets provide privacy and security, but long expanses of such fencing generally are undesirable due to the visual monotony and restricted vistas such expanses create. Moreover, fencing needs along streets differ between front yards, which are traditionally open and unobscured and contain vehicular access to streets, and side and rear yards, where family activities more often take place and thus require more privacy. Therefore, it is further stated that exceptions to the regulations of this chapter to allow site-screening fences in front yards are strongly discouraged and that where these regulations allow a continuous expanse of site-screening fencing along side and/or rear property lines abutting a street, the adverse aesthetic impacts of such fencing should be mitigated. (Ord. 2020 § 6, 1994; Ord. 1473 § 1, 1985; Ord. 1257 § 1, 1982)

21.10.100 Fence and hedge standards.

The following regulations shall apply to all fences, hedges, and other vision-obscuring structures:

A. Height and Composition of Fences and Hedges, and General Standards.

1. Vision-Obscuring Fences and Hedges. “Vision-obscuring fences and hedges” shall mean solid or partially open fences and hedges more than three feet in height, but not exceeding six feet in height in residential-zoned areas and eight feet in height in commercial-zoned areas. Maximum height shall be measured from the elevation of the ground adjacent to the fence or hedge on the higher side.

2. Non-Vision-Obscuring Fences and Hedges. “Non-vision-obscuring fences and hedges” shall include solid or partially open fences and hedges not exceeding three feet, and open fences not exceeding six feet in residential zones and eight feet in commercial zones. “Open fences” shall mean those fences consisting of open chain link, widely spaced board rails or other materials which provide adequate driver visibility through the fence. Rail fences shall consist of horizontal rails not more than four inches wide and at least one foot between rail edges. Deviation from horizontal rails and from these dimensions may be allowed, providing the applicant can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the appropriate city officials that such deviation will provide at least as much visibility through the fence. Maximum height shall be measured from the elevation of the ground adjacent to the fence on the higher side; however, within sight distance triangles (see subsections (B)(1)(b) and (B)(1)(c) of this section) maximum height of solid or partially open fences and hedges not exceeding three feet shall be measured from the elevation of the street adjacent to such sight distance triangle.

3. Maintenance. All fences and hedges shall be maintained in a condition of repair so as not to be dangerous to human life or a danger to the property.

4. Conflicting Limitations. Where the limitations of this chapter conflict with site-screening or fencing required by this or other city ordinances, requirements relating to the site-screening and other required fences shall apply, subject only to adequate provisions for driver visibility.

5. Continuous Fencing Along Streets. Where continuous fencing along a street between intersections is allowed due to the length and/or number of side and/or rear lot lines abutting that street, landscaping shall be required between the fence and the property line in order to mitigate the adverse aesthetic impacts of such fencing. Where such landscaping is required, the fence may be built along the property line except for offset sections to contain the landscaping.

Such landscaping shall consist of ornamental landscaping of low plantings and high plantings. The minimum height of trees shall be eight feet for evergreen trees and 10 feet for all other species. Trees shall be spaced a maximum of 25 feet on center with branches eliminated to a height of six feet where necessary to prevent vision obstruction. Low evergreen plantings or a mixture of low evergreen and deciduous plantings with a maximum height of 30 inches, in bark or decorative rock, shall be provided so as to achieve 50 percent groundcover within two years.

B. Location of Fences and Hedges.

1. Residential Zones. Non-vision-obscuring fences and hedges may be located on any portion of a residential-zoned lot. Vision-obscuring fences and hedges may be located on portions of a residential-zoned lot other than the following:

a. Within 15 feet of the front lot line.

b. Within a triangular area at street intersections. Such “intersection sight distance triangle” is defined as having two sides of 30 feet, measured along the property lines from the property corner at the street intersection, and a third side connecting the ends of the two aforementioned sides.

c. Within a triangular area adjacent on one side to a street, and on a second side to a property having frontage on and requiring access from that street. Such “driveway sight distance triangle” is defined as having two sides of 15 feet measured along the property lines from the property corner common to the subject and adjacent property, and a third side connecting the end points on the two aforementioned sides. If any adjacent lot is undeveloped, it shall be construed as having access from all adjacent streets until the direction of access has been established, either by development or by waiver of right of direct access as per RCW 58.17.165.

However, fences, walls and hedges between three and six feet in height that comply with applicable design guidelines may be located in any portion of a multiple-family residential-zoned lot as long as they are not located within intersection and driveway sight distance triangles, do not obstruct driver and pedestrian visibility, comply with applicable Lynnwood Citywide Design Guidelines, as adopted by reference in LMC 21.25.145(B)(3), and are approved through project design review (Chapter 21.25 LMC).

2. Commercial Zones. In commercial zones, vision-obscuring or non-vision-obscuring fences or hedges up to eight feet in height may be located on side and rear property lines and within side and rear yards, but not nearer to any public street than a point equal to the closest part of any building thereon to that street.

However, fences, walls and hedges up to six feet high that comply with applicable design guidelines may be located in any portion of a commercial-zoned lot as long as they are not located within intersection and driveway sight distance triangles, do not obstruct driver and pedestrian visibility, comply with applicable Lynnwood Citywide Design Guidelines, as adopted by reference in LMC 21.25.145(B)(3), and are approved through project design review (Chapter 21.25 LMC).

C. Referrals to Hearing Examiner. Any fence or wall approved through project design review (Chapter 21.25 LMC) does not have to be approved by the hearing examiner.

The hearing examiner may review applications for fence permits in the following situations:

1. Appeal. As an appeal of an administrative determination when:

a. An applicant proposes a fence which he/she believes meets the stated purpose of this section, but does not strictly conform to the regulations;

b. City staff believes that a proposed fence, while meeting regulations, may still obstruct visibility to such an extent that hazardous conditions would exist; or

c. There is a disagreement between staff and an applicant regarding interpretation of the fence and hedge regulations.

In such cases, the hearing examiner may stipulate standards for fence composition, height, and location.

2. Variance. As a variance, when an applicant believes the regulations of this chapter cause hardship. (Ord. 2388 § 6, 2001; Ord. 2020 § 6, 1994; Ord. 1582 § 1, 1987; Ord. 1473 §§ 1, 2, 1985; Ord. 1257 §§ 1, 2, 1982; Ord. 849 § 1, 1976; Ord. 686 § 1, 1973; Ord. 615 § 2, 1971; Ord. 190 Art. X § 10.1, 1964)

21.10.200 Electric fences.

Electric fences are permitted provided they comply with the requirements in this section.

An electric fence using an interrupted flow of current at intervals of about one second on and two seconds off shall be limited to 2,000 volts at 17 milliamperes current. All electric fences shall be posted with permanent signs a minimum of 36 square inches in area at intervals of 100 feet, stating that the fence is electrified. Electric fences manufactured by an established and reputable company and sold as a complete assembled unit carrying a written guarantee that complies with the requirements of this paragraph can be installed by an owner if the controlling elements of the installation carry a “U.L. Approved” seal. (Ord. 2020 § 6, 1994; Ord. 190 Art. X § 10.2, 1964)

21.10.300 Barbed wire fences.

No fences incorporating barbed wire are permitted except that barbed wire may be used on top of a six-foot high solid or chain link fence surrounding a public utility, an industrial plant site or a whole property, or barbed wire may be used when the fence is not a property line fence. (Ord. 2020 § 6, 1994; Ord. 190 Art. X § 10.3, 1964)

21.10.400 Vision obstruction by signs along public streets.

The legal setback for signs shall comply with the sign regulations of Chapter 21.16 LMC. This limitation does not apply to signs established or required by a public agency to service a public purpose. (Ord. 2310 § 29, 2000)

21.10.900 Exceptions.

The director may allow fences that do not conform to the regulations of this title at the following situations if the director finds that such fences are needed to protect the public health and safety:

A. Outdoor recreation establishments or park and recreation facilities; or

B. To prohibit illegal dumping.

As part of approving fences under this section, the director may impose conditions or limitations on fences allowed under this section in order to insure that such fences conform with the purpose and intent of this chapter and this title. (Ord. 2295 § 15, 2000)