Fence exemptions and sight lines

Photo Geoff Kettel.

Seems to me that wooden fences are sprouting in Leaside where open mesh chain link fences once prevailed. Presumably it’s about privacy, but shouldn’t it be about community safety as well? Sight lines can be impeded by a fence located next to a driveway, whether that of the fence owner or a neighbour. The City does indeed have rules regarding fences that are designed to take safety concerns into account. Specifically, Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 447, Fences, deals with transparency (or lack of), height, and positioning relative to the City’s right of way. But a fence exemption can be requested, and is subject to the approval of Community Council. That’s where we are with 31 Rykert Crescent.

Back in February, 2019, on completion of a rebuild, the owner constructed a fence so close to the sidewalk it actually enclosed the City-owned tree! It was also taller than allowed. That month the City ordered the owner to comply with the bylaw. In late March, 2019, after neighbours expressed concerns to the Councillor about a lack of enforcement action on the part of the City, City staff reported that “based on our investigation the City expects compliance concerning the fence in the next two weeks.”

Subsequently, the fence was moved back behind the street tree and lowered, but only the section near the street property line. The fence adjoining the property line with the neighbour continued to be non-compliant with respect to the sight line rules, and thus represents a safety hazard for vehicles exiting the owner’s own driveway! The City again issued a notice of non-compliance. But instead of complying, the owner requested a fence exemption to be considered by North York Community Council at its September, 2019 meeting, that will involve a new owner as the property has now been sold. If an exemption is granted, the fence will be allowed to remain in place, continuing a sight line hazard for the owner, neighbours, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians in the area. In addition, it could potentially create additional liability for the City if there is ever an injury related to exiting the driveway.

By the way, this is the same property we wrote about in the March, 2019 issue of Leaside Life – then it was issues with a sump pump spouting water onto the sidewalk and creating a skating rink. That one appears to be resolved with the owner installing a French drain to deal with the water on site.

About Geoff Kettel 119 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Property Owners’ Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), and Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.