GO Fence Policy

Grounds 2003-06-30


The GO fence policy allows backyard fences up to 6 feet high and front yard decorative fences up to 1.5 feet high. The policy aims to balance the community's desire for privacy and pet containment with the preservation of Great Oak's aesthetics and open space.


To create a fence policy that preserves the beauty of Great Oak's land and views and honors GO's desire for openness and accessibility, and also provides options for households to increase privacy and control pets and for the community to use fences on common land if needed.

Background Information
There are several reasons why fences on Great Oak land may be desired: to contain a pet (per Great Oak's Pet Policy); to increase privacy; to support the use of common areas (e.g., fencing a garden area; a fence around the hot tub; fencing to define edges and corners); to reduce noise and clutter (e.g., around AC compressors or hot boxes). These fencing decisions need to be made with many factors in mind: the aesthetics of the land and community, sight lines and views, and the maintenance of open space. While each household has a right to make individual determinations about the "limited common element" areas around their home, these areas and the rest of the Great Oak land is owned collectively, requiring that we determine guidelines as a community in order to keep the need for fences and cautions against fences in balance.

Reference (added 4/7/06) to the Township's policy: http://www.twp.scio.mi.us/ordinances/zoning2003/zo200311art4updt200505 SECTION 4.06(A) FENCE REGULATIONS/a.


Fences may be constructed by individual households and the community according to the following guidelines:

1. Any fences that do not fit in the guidelines below, should be submitted as proposals for review and approval before being built. Great Oak community as a whole will be the decision-making body to consider these proposals, until Great Oak creates and empowers a committee to fulfill this function.

2. Natural barriers are preferred to fences and should be used whenever possible. Natural barriers include trees, shrubs, hedges.

3. It is important to the community that fences be attractive.
o Recommended materials include: wood and wood-like materials (eg, Trex), and ornate ironwork.
o Materials GO would prefer not be used for permanent fences, due to aesthetics: plain metal chain link, wire mesh, chicken wire.
o Materials that are not permitted, due to safety: arsenic-treated wood (CCA), and any other hazardous materials (eg, barbed wire).

4. GOers who need to put up an inexpensive, unattractive fence (for example, metal posts with chicken wire or wire mesh (also called "hardware cloth")) when they first move in, can do so as a Temporary fence. Temporary fences will be allowed for up to a year after a household moves into Great Oak. Households with Temporary fences that they wish to keep for longer than a year should submit a proposal to the community (or designated committee).

5. Before building a fence, households are strongly encouraged to consult with their immediate neighbors, to work out any issues or questions ahead of time.

6. Back yard (rear LCE) fences are permitted. 4 feet is the recommended height. Fences up to 6 feet high are permitted without review from the community (or designated committee). These fences are intended to fulfill various needs mentioned above such as privacy and pet enclosure. If a household builds a solid fence higher than 4 feet, that household is taking a risk that Scio township may eventually require them to take it down. (Sunward has not had a problem, and the Scio regulation is vague - Scio's article 3 only says that solid fences under 4 feet, and fences of more than 50% opacity, are "unregulated.") Note that it is the household's, not the community's, responsibility if the township does decide a household's fence is not allowed; the community is not obligated to compensate the household for the fence.

7. Front yard (front LCE) decorative fences are permitted. 1-1/2 feet is the maximum height without review from the community (or designated committee). Any front yard (front LCE) fences or structures are not intended for privacy or pet enclosure, but rather are primarily for decoration, edge-definition, or to discourage toddlers from trampling one's roses. Decorative elements of any height that do not enclose the yard are permitted in front LCEs (eg, Patti's iron arbor).

8. Owners are solely responsible for upkeep, repair, replacement and conformance to local regulations of fences and other decorative yard elements.

Makes it possible to have fences at GO to meet individual and community needs.
Sets clear guidelines for basic fencing decisions so that the community does not need to review every fencing decision.
Creates the flexibility for the community to review non-standard fencing strategies.
Emphasizes the natural integrity of GO land and landscape.
Fences at GO will change the sightlines on the land.


Discussed at the following community meetings: 5/19/2003, 6/3/2003, 6/30/2003. (decision).

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