INDEPENDENCE — Independence city councilors fielded citizen comments on flags and fences at their June 12 meeting.
Victoria Kruljac said she recently found out she cannot erect the vinyl fence she had planned to install because of a city code which prohibits it.
City Manager David Clyne said vinyl fencing was allowed from 2010 through 2012.
Kruljac said her husband is disabled and can no longer do any of the work outside.
“We are restructuring our entire yard so we can stay in our home,” she said.
They also are installing water features, so need fencing for safety reasons, she said.
A vinyl fence is “maintenance free” and can be power-washed, Kruljac said.
She said the vinyl fencing that is available today is higher quality and more attractive than the vinyl fencing that came out 20 years ago. She provided councilors with photos of fencing in Independence.
“The pictures that I provided show that,” Kruljac said. “There are a gazzilion areas with vinyl fencing our community.”
She said some wood and chain-link fences are poorly kept, but that vinyl fences keep their appearance.
Kruljac is in the midst of landscaping and cannot wait 35 days for the usual process.
She mentioned a recent planning commission decision to waive height requirements for a developer.
“If that can be done that easily, than why can’t this be done,” she asked.
Gerald Nichols, who is landscaping Kruljac’s yard, briefly spoke on her behalf, saying the PVC vinyl fencing she wants to install is a an upgrade from wood fencing.
Clyne said if the council wished to initiate code changes, they could schedule that as a regular agenda item.
Clyne also noted that there is a legally required process that takes 35 days and that changing the ordinance “in a week or so is virtually impossible.”
Councilor Marilyn Morton said she is familiar with vinyl fencing and asked if they could declare a moratorium.
“You have not given notice to the public that you are considering this matter,” Clyne responded.
Councilor Tom Takacs asked if they could “look at this by the next council meeting.”
Clyne asked for clarification on what he should try to achieve by then.
“The quality probably has gotten much better,” Takacs said. “From the distant pictures that I saw, this looks like a quality product.”
He asked if Kruljac could somehow get an exception.
“You can evade enforcement on this, but if you don’t approve the change, that’s where you put her at risk,” Clyne said.
There is some work that needs to go into the issue, Clyne said.
“I recognize that you’re hearing this tonight,” he said. “It sounds reasonable.”
But there is a process in place, Clyne said, and complicating issues, such as defining which quality vinyl fence is OK and which isn’t.
Mayor John McArdle asked Clyne to “follow through with legal folks and provide a staff report so we can look at the larger, longer issue.”
When Kruljac asked for a time frame of when she might hear back, McArdle asked staff to do their best “to keep these folks informed.”
Jamie Boe expressed concern about Confederate flags being sold at the Independence Days Fourth of July celebration.
He said he spoke to the council about it last year as well.
“Is there actually a vendor this year selling flags,” Boe asked. “There’s something not good here, and I wish we could restrict it, but there’s some First Amendment speech issues. Western Days’ homepage advertises this as a family friendly event, but in reality, I see this, and it’s not friendly but it’s disturbing. Because of this thing, it is less than is being advertised.”
McArdle said he understands Boe’s point.
“I have no love for folks that are showing that kind of flag,” McArdle said. “I did visit with the vendor, face-to-face.”
McArdle said he wanted to direct city staff “to take a look at the manual and make sure it is appropriate and to see if there is any appropriate signage, some way to express that if that has to be there, that we don’t endorse, condone, love, like or anything like that. The First Amendment is sometimes uncomfortable.”
Councilor Michael Hicks said he was hesitant to stir up a conversation about the issue.
He said creating confrontational signage invites a debate.
Morton told Boe that talking with the Independence Days commission would “be a wise first choice.”
“This body has empowered them to operate that festival on our behalf,” Morton said.
Hicks is the council liaison for that commission, she said.
“We voted that Independence is an inclusive city, so bigotry and racism — that’s not OK,” said Councilor Odilon Campos-Santos. “It’s OK for us to have an opinion about that, but the law is the law.”