Two front yards?

Two front yards?

Zoning quirk on fence heights up for future discussion

CUMBERLAND – At the corner of Mendon Road and Rolling Acres Drive, a makeshift 6-foot sign last week asked motorists if they would want to look around a fence that tall to get onto Mendon Road.

“This is the height of a 6-foot fence,” read the sign on a corner lot property where a new home is under construction.

The sign was gone this week, but residents were still planning to turn out for a Cumberland Zoning Board meeting on Wednesday evening, Nov. 13, where the board was expected to follow the recommendation of the Planning Board in approving a dimensional variance for relief on a maximum height of a fence requirement. The petition was from Gary and Robin Marsh for a home at 4 Rolling Acres Drive, a corner lot with frontage on Mendon Road.

The request from the applicant is highlighting a quirk in Cumberland’s zoning codes, says Zoning Board Chairman John McCoy. To put it simply, he told The Breeze, a corner home such as this one has two front yards

Online debate last week featured varying perspectives, a number of people saying the property owner should have the right to privacy on a busy corner lot and others prioritizing the rights of drivers to see.

According to McCoy, the proposed fence at this house is far enough away from the roadway to protect sight lines.

The zoning quirk requiring a dimensional variance for a taller fence in two front yards on corner lots is an issue that’s come up a number of times over the years, said McCoy, and it may be something the board wants to look at addressing in some way in the future.

McCoy said the bigger problem related to sight lines for drivers in Cumberland is from shrubs and other plantings located too close to the roadway. There really haven’t been many complaints about fences blocking the view, he said.

According to the Planning Board memo to the Zoning Board, the petitioner was proposing to build a six-foot fence in both of the home’s front yards, seeking relief from the four-foot limit. Beginning at the southwest corner of the house, the fence would extend 61 feet west, parallel to Rolling Acres Drive, toward Mendon Road, then turn north, parallel to Mendon Road. It would then continue around the property.

The six-foot high fence would be set back approximately 25 feet from the property line along Rolling Acres Drive and 12 feet from the property line along Mendon Road.

“Because the property is a corner lot, the lot frontage facing Rolling Acres Drive and Mendon Road are both considered the front yard,” states the memo. “With regard to fence heights, the Cumberland Zoning Ordinance specifies the following: ‘In A and R zones, fences shall not exceed four feet in height in any front yard.’”

The location of the proposed fence is compliant with corner setback requirements of 15 feet from the intersection as required by zoning and will provide “a clear sight triangle” for drivers on both roads, states the memo.

It adds that the request for a six-foot fence in the two front yards is to provide adequate privacy for the residents.

Fences, particularly six-foot fences, are quite uncommon along a one-mile segment of Mendon Road from Nate Whipple Highway to Cumberland High School, say planners. Exceptions include a 600-foot closed picket fence at Royal Court and a closed picket fence surrounding the playground at the former Cherry Blossim Journey School.

Though uncommon, a fence of this type would not be inappropriate, states the memo.

“Many houses within the neighborhood surrounding 4 Rolling Acres Drive have high fences along their side and rear yards,” it reads. “ The unique situation in this instance is that the property’s Mendon Road frontage is, for practical matters, a side yard that is considered a front yard for the purposes of zoning.”


The worst place I've seen when it comes to adequate sight lines is at the top of Pollett Street where it intersects High Street/Diamond Hill Road. The house on the corner has overgrown shrubs that overlap well onto the sidewalk and obstruct the view of anyone trying to take a left onto High Street.

I'm surprised that there hasn't been a serious T-bone accident at this location.