Tall fences—"imposing" is the word Mayor Lou Magdits IV used to describe them—will be allowed now that the Rolla City Council has voted to change the city code.

But they will only be allowed in commercial/industrial areas with buildings that are at least 50,000 square feet.

That means property must be zoned as a C-3 (highway commercial), M-1 (light manufacturing) or M-2 heavy manufacturing) district, and the building must be the size of Walmart or Lowe's, both of which already have "imposing" fences to secure merchandise and equipment.

Community Development Director John Petersen, in his presentation to the council at the Jan. 3 meeting, acknowledged that there had been no provision for code enforcement of the tall fences.

The ordinance to amend the city code, which passed 11-0 on the final reading, allows fence heights in C-3, M-1 and M-2 zones "limited to fourteen (14) feet in height."

The fences would not be allowed on a property line immediately adjacent to a residential district, nor would they be allowed if they obstruct sight distance at intersections.

Another addition to the code is the requirement that any fence over 10 feet and over 50 percent screening must have engineering plans filed with the city. Also, the minimum lot size for a commercial or industrial firm seeking permission for tall fences is at least two acres.

The fencing question came to light with the possibility that Menards would build a large building at the proposed Westside Marketplace. That big-box store would need a tall fence for securing merchandise and equipment outdoors.

At its November meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended the changes in the city code.

Mayor Magdits asked what could be done if another business, one not meeting all the size and zoning requirements, wants to build a 14-foot fence for security reasons

Petersen said the business owner could ask the board of adjustment for a variance.

"The board of adjustment is the pathway," he said.

City Administrator John Butz said "the burden is very high" on any variance.

Butz said there are "four or five" businesses that currently have tall fences as covered by the ordinance but he said, showing a zoning map, "There are lots of potentialities."