Good fences make good neighbors

By Ed Brock

Being 77 years old and alone, Ruby Williams likes the security of living in a house surrounded by a barbed wire topped fence that would make some prisons jealous.

Her husband Daniel William, who died in September, had the fence built in 1996 shortly after a new high density housing development was built next door to the house where they'd lived for over 50 years.

"Our kids all wanted us to move. My husband said, 'No, we've been here too long,'" Williams said. "There are just so many kids and teenagers in the houses so we decided we didn't want no trouble with them."

Williams may be the last person in Forest Park to own such a fence.

Last Tuesday night the Forest Park City Council passed an ordinance banning barbed wire, razor wire or electric fences (the latter does not include "invisible" fences for dogs) in residential areas. For some time, before the passage of the ordinance, several people called the city asking for permission to put up such a fence, said Steve Pearson, Forest Park's director of planning building and zoning.

"A lot of people have pit bulls," Pearson said. "Some people want to put (fences) up to keep people out of their yards and some people want them to keep dogs inside the yard."

Before the ordinance Pearson would have to tell those making the request that the city had no code regulating the fences and therefore no say over whether they could be erected. He would, however, urge them to check with their homeowners insurance to see how much it would cost them to cover possible injuries caused by the fences.

Nobody else had actually built a fence like Williams', Pearson said. Concern that the fences could cause an injury to a child or pet is one reason the city passed the ordinance, he added, but there's also the aesthetic issue to consider.

"It looks like a prison," Pearson said of Williams' fence. "It looks awful."

The fence doesn't bother Hector Hernandez who lives across the street from Williams.

"I guess it's for their security," Hernandez said.

Another neighbor, Jesus Sarafin, also isn't worried about the fence, but he would like it if it was covered in some way.

William Alger lives next door to Williams and said he's built a privacy fence on the side of his house opposite Williams because he's had conflicts with the neighbor on that side.

Williams, whose fence is "grandfathered in" and therefore not affected by the new ordinance, said so far she hasn't had any problems with anybody being injured on the fence.

Alger's not too worried about Williams' fence causing harm to his children.

"My kids know to leave it alone," Alger said.