Where Citydesk is Ensnared in a Permitting Nightmare of his Own Making



At most decent newspapers, any reporter who gets a DUI will show up on the front page the next day. Well this is not quite as bad, but I came home last week to a "NOTICE OF VIOLATION" from the City of Boise. Zoning Enforcement Officer Michael Garner noted that I had constructed a "strange metal fence" without obtaining a fence permit.

He's right; I should have obtained the $13.50 fence permit before constructing my fence post and hog panel trellis around my urban front yard garden. I do feel like the city has a right to regulate fences in city limits, though I didn't anticipate that my fence needed regulation when I was building it.

So I went into City Hall this afternoon to pay up, but then the clerk noted that I was in a historic district and thus would need a Certificate of Appropriateness in lieu of the fence permit. That's $26, by the way, and a 7-page application. Also, standard wooden fences have been pre-deemed appropriate here, but hog paneling is generally considered inappropriate, according to Matt Halitsky, who staffs the city's Historic Preservation Commission and who patiently answered my questions, though he partially obscured his profile behind a partition as we spoke.

So, being the open, honest citizen that I am, I asked about the front yard urban garden referenced above which the suspect fence/trellis complements in a 1950s Ranch meets actual ranch style that I spent the winter designing in my head.

In fact, front yard gardens in historic preservation districts are frowned upon, but I'd have to fill out the app to be sure, Halitsky responded.

Thats not a bad fence, right? Thats not even a fence, its a trellis.
  • That's not a bad fence, right? That's not even a fence, it's a trellis.

So now my minor fence permit violation has turned into a full scale question of appropriateness, calling into question the viability of the garden that is to be my life's work this summer.

The clerk assured me that a neighbor complained about it ... zoning enforcement does not just drive around looking for violations like this, she assured me. Well, first of all, I wish that neighbor would just come talk to me.

But second of all, what about all this shit I've been writing about the city embracing urban agriculture, which, I might point out, is by definition historic and preservationist.

I think I'll fill out the paperwork and see this through as an experiment in being an adult. Just don't tread on my baby arugula, Mr. Boise Commie Man, OK.


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