Village Board Denies Request for a Tall Front Yard Fence on Early Street

Sheldon L. Lebold, Ashley Rice, Rhiyand Rice, Early Street, fence, major variation
Attorney Sheldon Lebold makes his arguments before the Village Board Monday in favor of a six-foot or five-foot fence in the front yard of Ashley and Rhiyand Rice pm Ear;u Street. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The Village Board Monday considered an unusual request from a couple on Early Street. Rhiyand and Ashley Rice wanted to put a fence up to six feet tall around their front yard so their one-year-old child could play outside. The Rice’s attorney, Sheldon L. Lebold, was present and spoke to board members during public comment. Ms. Rice also spoke before the board.

The couple lives in the 300 block of Early Street, a north-south road that descends from Illinois Street in East Lincolnwood. Lincoln Park is to the north of Early. Because of a garage in their back yard, the couple says there is no back yard for their one-year-old to safely play.

According to a January 15, 2019, letter from Mr. Lebold, the couple’s attorney, Ms. Rice has an illness that prevents her from running after the one-year-old. ” The petitioners are the parents of two daughters, Aaliyah, being 12 years old, and Aamiyah, being a year old,” Mr. Lebold writes. “Because of the building addition and garage erected on the site, there is no backyard space for the younger child to play. Six feet would be satisfactory to provide a place for a one year old [sic] to safely play; again, because of Ashley’s illness, she is, and would be, unable to run after a one year old [sic] child who might otherwise (in the future) climb a three foot [sic] fence.”

According to Director of Development and Economic Planning Hildy Kingma, in all zoning districts in Park Forest, fences in the front or corner side yard are permitted to be no taller than three (3) feet. The Rices thus sought a major variation.

The major obstacle they faced Monday was that on December 11, 2018, at the regular meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, a public hearing was held to consider this request. According to Ms. Kingma, “As required by Village Ordinance and State Statute, public notice of the hearing was posted in the Daily Southtown Newspaper, sent to property owners within 250 feet of the subject property, and posted on the subject property. No comments from the public were received.”

At Monday’s meeting, Ms. Kingma said that Ms. Rice did not mention her illness at the December meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission. However, she added, “Variations are granted based on the unique circumstances of the property, not of the people who live on the property. That’s a very important distinction based on state statute.” Ms. Rice’s illness, therefore, was not relevant to the request.

The Planning and Zoning Commission then heard from Ashley Rice, who was present at the meeting. Her attorney, Mr. Lebold, was not present at the December meeting. According to the minutes from the December meeting, Ms. Rice did not mention her illness but argued ” that her house is a corner house without a backyard. She would like to put a six foot wood privacy fence on the side of the house to provide privacy, enhance the neighborhood, and improve the value of the house. She has signatures from neighbors who are in agreement with her getting a fence.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 8-0 to recommend that the Village Board deny Ms. Rice’s request for the fence.

At Monday’s meeting, Attorney Lebold said there were other concerns about a three-foot fence around the yard, that someone could reach over and take the one-year-old daughter. Mayor Ostenburg observed, “I don’t want to be overly judgmental, but I would submit that a child that’s one-year-old shouldn’t be left out in a yard by itself anyway, no matter how high the fence is.”

Ms. Rice and her attorney left the Board Room shortly after the Village Board voted to deny the request.

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