Chapter 18.35


18.35.010    General.

18.35.020    Definitions.

18.35.030    Design and ornamental features.

18.35.040    Findings – Hedges.

18.35.041    Rights established.

18.35.042    Process for resolution of obstruction disputes.

18.35.043    Hedge claim preparation.

18.35.044    Binding arbitration.

18.35.045    Litigation.

18.35.046    Apportionment of costs.

18.35.047    Limitation.

18.35.048    Application.

18.35.050    Variance and appeal procedures.

18.35.010 General.

(1) In the R-5 and single-family zones, fences and walls shall not be more than four feet in height in the front yard setback nor more than six feet in height in the side or rear yard setbacks, as measured from the top of the fence or wall to the lowest original grade.

(2) At a road intersection, no sight obstruction is permitted within 10 feet from the intersection. Obstructions such as fences and hedges located over 10 feet and up to 20 feet from the intersection shall not be more than 42 inches in height. (See Fig. 1, Sight Distance Triangle).

(3) For R-5 and single-family lots fronting on First Avenue South, the front yard fence and wall height maximum may be increased to six feet to provide noise attenuation, privacy and protection; provided, that the provisions of subsection (2) of this section regarding restrictions on fence and hedge height at intersections shall apply.

(4) A fence permit shall be required for any fence or wall over six feet in height. Height shall be measured from the top of the fence or wall to the lowest original grade.

(5) A fence permit shall be required for any fence or wall within an environmentally sensitive area or its buffer.

(6) No fence, wall or hedge shall be located in a public right-of-way.

(7) No fence, wall or hedge shall be allowed where it creates a hazard or obstruction to users of the road, sidewalk or nearby property.

(8) Where a retaining wall protects a cut below the natural grade and is located on the line separating lots or parcels, the retaining wall may be topped by a fence or wall of the same height that would otherwise be permitted at the location if no retaining wall existed.

(9) Where a retaining wall contains a fill, the height of the wall retaining the fill shall be included within the permissible height of a fence, except a protective fence not more than 42 inches in height may be erected at the top of the retaining wall. Any portion of a protective fence over 72 inches above the base of the fill at the retaining wall shall be an openwork fence as defined in NPMC 18.35.030.

(10) Fence, hedge or screening requirements adopted as part of Chapter 18.100 NPMC, Design Standards and Guidelines, covering the RM-1800, RM-2400 and commercial zoning districts shall be followed where there is a conflict between this chapter and the design standards.

Fig. 1 Sight Distance Triangle1

(Ord. 888 § 2 (Exh. A), 2012; Ord. 752 § 1, 2005).

18.35.020 Definitions.

“Complainant” means a complaining property owner in the city of Normandy Park who alleges that a hedge located on the adjacent property of another is causing an unreasonable obstruction of preexisting views or sunlight.

“Hedge” means a row of closely planted trees, shrubs or grasses forming a fence, screen or boundary.

“Hedge owner” means the record owner of the real property on which a hedge is located.

“Owner” means any individual, firm, partnership, corporation, trust or other legal entity owning property in the city of Normandy Park.

“Primary living or entertaining area” means an area located on the lot. The determination of primary living or entertaining area is to be made on a case-by-case basis.

“Substantial obstruction of sunlight” means the loss of a substantial portion of direct or indirect sunlight in a primary living or entertaining area or in a significant portion of the complainant’s real property.

“View” means an actual or potential vista. (Ord. 790 § 1, 2007; Ord. 752 § 1, 2005).

18.35.030 Design and ornamental features.

(1) Fences, both new and rebuilt, should be made of material such as masonry, ornamental metal, wood, or some combination thereof. The use of chain link fencing is prohibited in a front yard unless it is fully screened from view by year-round vegetation or is vinyl-coated with a neutral color (i.e., green, black, brown).

(2) Notwithstanding any required permits, the following may be constructed without a variance:

(a) A trellis added to the top of a fence up to two additional feet higher than the allowed height, but not more than a height of eight feet.

(b) An arbor to a maximum height of nine feet over a gate, walkway or entrance.

(c) Decorative or ornamental features such as, but not limited to, columns, posts or other vertical focal points, spaced no less than eight feet apart, up to two additional feet higher than the allowed height to a maximum height of eight feet.

(d) An openwork name sign over a driveway.

(3) For purposes of regulation under this chapter, a trellis shall be considered to be a fence, subject to the same height limitations and permit requirements. A trellis that has a horizontal element wider than 36 inches measured perpendicular to the fence or trellis shall be considered an arbor, subject to an arbor’s siting requirements. (Ord. 752 § 1, 2005).

18.35.040 Findings – Hedges.

This section is enacted in recognition of the importance of views and sunlight to properties within the city of Normandy Park and to provide a fair and structured mechanism for resolving hedge disputes relating to views and sunlight. This chapter is based upon the following findings which are adopted by the city council of Normandy Park.

(1) It is in the interest of the public welfare, health and safety to establish standards for the resolution of view and sun obstruction claims and to establish a structure for resolution of such claims which will provide a reasonable balance between the values of hedge ownership and view and sunlight related values.

(2) When a view or sunlight obstruction dispute arises, the parties should act reasonably to resolve the dispute through friendly communication, thoughtful negotiation, compromise and other traditional means. Those disputes which are not resolved through such means may be resolved by following the procedures established herein.

(3) It is the intent of the city that the provisions of this chapter receive thoughtful and reasonable application. It is not the intent of the city to encourage clear-cutting or substantial denuding of any property of its trees by overzealous application of the provisions of this chapter. (Ord. 790 § 2, 2007; Ord. 752 § 1, 2005).

18.35.041 Rights established.

Hedges, or other plantings having a barrier, screen or partition nature, shall not be more than 10 feet in height when located within 10 feet of any adjacent owner’s property line; provided, that no hedge more than 10 feet in height and within 10 feet of the property line shall create a nuisance or safety hazard, or unreasonably interfere with access to sunlight and/or views enjoyed by the complainant. The provisions of NPMC 18.35.010(2) regarding restrictions on fence and hedge height at intersections shall apply.

A person shall have the right to preserve and seek restoration of views or sunlight which existed at any time since they purchased, when such views or sunlight are from the primary living or entertainment area and have subsequently been unreasonably obstructed by the hedge.

In order to establish such rights pursuant to this chapter, the person must follow the process established in this chapter. In addition to the rights described in this section, private parties have the right to seek remedial action for imminent danger caused by trees. (Ord. 790 § 3, 2007).

18.35.042 Process for resolution of obstruction disputes.

The following process shall be used in the resolution of view and sunlight obstruction disputes:

(1) Initial Reconciliation. A complainant who believes that hedge growth on the property of another has caused unreasonable obstruction of views or sunlight from a primary living or entertaining area shall notify the hedge owner in writing of such concerns. Notification should, if possible, be accompanied by a personal discussion to enable the complainant and hedge owner to attempt to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

(2) Mediation. If the initial reconciliation attempt fails, the complainant shall propose mediation as a timely means to settle the obstruction dispute. Acceptance of mediation by the hedge owner shall be voluntary, but the hedge owner shall have no more than 30 days from service of notice to either accept or reject the offer of mediation. If mediation is accepted, the parties shall mutually agree upon a mediator within 10 days. It is recommended that the services of a professionally trained mediator be employed. Mediation may be arranged through the Seattle-King County Alternate Dispute Resolution Center. The mediation meeting may be informal. The mediation process may include the hearing of the viewpoints of lay or expert witnesses and shall include a site visit to the properties of the complainant and the hedge owner. The parties are encouraged to contact immediate neighbors and solicit input. The mediator shall consider the purposes and policies set forth in this chapter in attempting to help resolve the dispute. The mediator shall not have the power to issue binding orders for restorative action, but shall strive to enable the parties to resolve their dispute by written agreement in order to eliminate the need for binding arbitration or litigation. (Ord. 790 § 4, 2007).

18.35.043 Hedge claim preparation.

(1) In the event that the initial reconciliation process fails, and mediation either is declined by the hedge owner or fails, the complainant must prepare a hedge claim and provide a copy to the hedge owner in order to pursue either binding arbitration or litigation under the authority established by this chapter.

(2) A hedge claim shall consist of all of the following:

(a) A description of the nature and extent of the alleged obstruction, including pertinent and corroborating physical evidence. Evidence may include, but is not limited to, photographic prints, negatives or slides. Evidence of the date of property acquisition by the complainant must be included;

(b) The location of all hedges alleged to cause the obstruction, the address of the property upon which the hedges are located, and the present hedge owner’s name and address;

(c) Evidence of the failure of initial reconciliation to resolve the dispute. The complainant must provide evidence that written attempts at reconciliation have been made and have failed. Evidence may include, but is not limited to, copies of and receipts for certified or registered mail correspondence;

(d) Evidence that mediation has been attempted and has failed, or has been declined by the hedge owner;

(e) The specific restorative actions proposed by the complainant to resolve the unreasonable obstruction. (Ord. 790 § 5, 2007).

18.35.044 Binding arbitration.

In those cases where the initial reconciliation process fails and where mediation is declined by the hedge owner or has failed, the complainant must offer in writing to submit the dispute to binding arbitration, and the hedge owner may elect binding arbitration. The hedge owner shall have 30 days from service of notice to accept or reject binding arbitration. If accepted, the parties shall agree on a specific arbitrator within 21 days, and shall indicate such agreement in writing.

The arbitrator shall use the provisions of this chapter to reach a fair resolution of the dispute and shall submit a complete written report to the complainant and the hedge owner. The report shall include the arbitrator’s findings with respect to NPMC 18.35.042(1) and (2), a pertinent list of all mandated restorative actions with any appropriate conditions concerning such actions, and a schedule by which the mandates must be completed. Any decision of the arbitrator may be enforced by civil action by either party. A copy of the arbitrator’s report shall be filed with the city clerk. (Ord. 790 § 6, 2007).

18.35.045 Litigation.

In those cases where binding arbitration is declined by the hedge owner, then civil action may be pursued by the complainant for resolution of the view or sunlight obstruction from the hedge under the provisions and guidelines set forth in this chapter. The complainant must state in the lawsuit that mediation and arbitration were offered and not accepted. A copy of any final resolution of the litigation shall be filed with the city clerk. (Ord. 790 § 7, 2007).

18.35.046 Apportionment of costs.

(1) Mediation and Arbitration. The complainant and hedge owner shall each pay 50 percent of mediation or arbitration fees, unless they agree otherwise or allow the mediator or arbitrator discretion to allocate costs.

(2) Restorative Action. The costs of restorative action shall be determined by mutual agreement or through mediation, arbitration, court decision or settlement. (Ord. 790 § 8, 2007).

18.35.047 Limitation.

This chapter shall not be construed to affect obligations imposed by easements, covenants or agreements. (Ord. 790 § 9, 2007).

18.35.048 Application.

(1) This chapter shall not apply to hedges located on property owned by the city (not including rights-of-way). Individuals who are adversely affected by hedges located on property owned by the city may approach the city for requested relief. The potential for obstruction of views or substantial obstruction of sunlight shall be considered by the city when planting hedges on property owned by the city.

(2) This chapter shall not apply to hedges located within city rights-of-way. (Ord. 790 § 10, 2007).

18.35.050 Variance and appeal procedures.

(1) The city manager or designee may grant a variance from the height restrictions of this chapter for special needs such as, but not limited to, game courts or protective requirements; provided, that:

(a) The owner or representative of the owner shall submit a detailed plan and written presentation of reasons why the height restriction should be allowed to be exceeded;

(b) The city shall send, at the applicant’s expense, the request and its accompanying documents to all property owners in the surrounding area, as defined in subsection (6) of this section; and

(c) There is no written objection to the requested variance.

(2) The city manager or designee may conduct research to determine the need for a variance and any impacts on the surrounding area, and may request the advice of a consultant, whose services shall be payable by petitioner.

(3) If there is an objection in writing which cannot be resolved by agreement, the hearing examiner shall conduct a public hearing, with proper legal notice of the hearing to all property owners in the surrounding area as provided in Chapter 18.150 NPMC.

(4) The hearing examiner shall base his or her determination solely on the information furnished by the petitioner, the objector(s) and the city manager or designee, and shall not grant the variance unless the hearing examiner finds that the requested variance is reasonably required and will not unreasonably interfere with the rights of the objecting property owners.

(5) Any party aggrieved by a decision of the hearing examiner may appeal the decision to the King County superior court, following the procedure given in Chapter 18.150 NPMC.

(6) For the purposes of this variance procedure, the owners of surrounding properties shall be those owning properties adjacent to petitioner’s property, those across the street from any proposed fence and those within 100 feet of the proposed fence.

(7) The appellant shall pay in accordance with the appeals fee schedule established by resolution of the city council. (Ord. 924 § 2(K), 2015; Ord. 833 § 9, 2009; Ord. 752 § 1, 2005).


Code reviser’s note: In Fig. 1, the vertical measurement of “20 feet” was added editorially at the request of the city.