BELEN—If you’re contemplating replacing or erecting a new fence made of tires, railroad ties or pallets in the city of Belen, you’re out of luck.
The council approved a new fence ordinance — by a 3-1 vote — which restricts not only the height of fencing and walls around residential and commercial properties in the Hub City but the material that can be used in its construction.
The intent of the ordinance is “to establish a uniformity of fencing appearance and materials of construction and create a general front yard harmony of one building with another in relation to the street.”
Steven Tomita, Belen’s planning and economic development manager, said this ordinance will be an addition to the existing landscaping ordinance, and will take effect by mid May.
Pre-existing fencing in the city will be grand-fathered in and not subject to change under the ordinance, Tomita explained, but for new fencing, property owners must abide by the new standards.
According to the ordinance, any fence above 6 feet, shall be designed by a New Mexico registered structural engineer and approved by the city, and any new fence construction will require prior approval from the development services department..
“The use of barbed wire, wire mesh, electric fencing or chain link shall not be used within residential zoning districts. Railroad ties, tires, temporary fencing (other than construction or short term site security) and pallets shall not be used for any zoning districts,” the ordinance reads.
“Razor wire, barbed wire, metal panel or electric fencing shall not be used in any residential districts. Storage areas, solid waste dumpsters, and large items for solid waste pick-up, where their use is necessary or required, shall be confined in an enclosed area … with locking gates.”
The ordinance also stipulates that repairs to fencing cannot be done with wire, zip ties, duct tape or other like material.
In commercial zone districts, a fence cannot exceed a height of 7 feet with one foot of out rigging, for a total of 8 feet on the side or rear property line.
As with other city ordinances, residents still have the option to request a variance for their fences, which would go first to the planning and zoning commission, and then onto the council for final approval.
Early on in the discussions about this ordinance, the council, Tomita and the city’s planning and zoning commission had been talking about one further restriction — no front-yard fencing. While the approved ordinance encourages residents to have open yards, it remains allowable.
At least one councilor hoped that restriction would have made it into the final version.
“It’s progressive to have front yards open,” said Councilor Danny Bernal Jr. “It truly makes a community look nicer. When people come here as a visitor or looking to buy, they’re looking at houses that look like their in a complex. The look of a fenced-off yard is not welcoming.”
Councilor Frank Ortega, who was the only councilor to vote against approving the ordinance, said the option of allowing front-yard fencing was appropriate because of crime and protecting people from dogs.
Ortega made a motion to table the agenda item, saying he wanted the public to be able to review and understand the ordinance. Ortega’s motion died due to the lack of a second.
Although there was an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the ordinance in a public hearing during the meeting, no one spoke for or against the ordinance.
Bernal then made a motion to approve the ordinance, with Councilor Ronnie Torres making the second. The ordinance was approved 3-1 with Councilors Bernal, Torres and Noblin voting yes, and Ortega voting it down.
Belen Fence Ordinance 2021
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.