Fayette council discusses pool fences 9.2.09

Written by David Green.


There wasn’t much support heard at a public hearing Thursday in Fayette for keeping the ordinance requiring fences around swimming pools.

Fayette village council members voted 4-1 on July 23 to repeal the requirement, but a public hearing was required before moving forward.

Village administrator Amy Metz read a letter from Pauline Jones urging council to leave the ordinance in place. Jones said the council members who originally passed the ordinance had their focus on the safety of the children of the town.

Tom Rupp, a former council and zoning board member, said repealing the law would be a disservice to the community. He said laws are made for the well-being of citizens and removing this law could lead to the loss of a child’s life. Rupp said some children aren’t old enough to know better.

“Where are their parents?” asked acting mayor Craig Rower. “It’s not my responsibility. If it’s so important, why doesn’t the State of Ohio have it on their books?”

Rower added that the federal and state constitutions supersede any local laws.

Council member Julia Ruger questioned why the village would want to take the responsibility for trying to keep uninvited guests out of people’s yards. A fence might provide peace of mind, but people can still get in your pool if they want, she said.

“As a home owner, you’re responsible for what happens on your property,” said  council president Ruth Marlatt.

She acknowledged that many insurance companies require their insureds to erect a fence around a pool, but not everyone informs their insurer that they have a pool.

Marlatt cast the only vote July 23 against repealing the ordinance.

Planning commission member Rodney Kessler noted that several area communities don’t have fence requirements and councilor Mike Maginn turned the responsibility back on the parents.

“Where are the parents of these kids?” he asked. “It’s not the village’s responsibility.”

Council member Jerry Gonzales repeated a statement he’s made in previous discussions: “What good is it to have a law if it isn’t enforced?”

Council member Paul Schaffer said the ordinance is a liability to the village if it isn’t enforced.

Police chief Jason Simon said he’s never cited anyone for not having a fence, but he’s spoken with a couple property owners about the issue and they put a fence up.

“We need to prevent access to pools,” he said. “If you don’t want this stuff, don’t move into town. It’s zoned.”

Chief Simon said he only learned recently that he could issue citations for the lack of a fence.

“If I’d known, believe me I would have,” he said.

Village administrator Amy Metz said she was advised by the village’s attorney that liability is not a concern for the village government. If a person uses a pool uninvited, they could be charged with trespassing. The village’s liability insurer confirmed that opinion.

“As a Village, we’re here to protect the health and welfare of the community as a whole,” she said.

Shaffer said he would consider a new ordinance that clarified the issue better.

“And I’d have to be sure that it will be strictly enforced,” he added.

Gonzales still sees the issue as infringing on personal rights,

“Don’t pass laws governing other people’s lives,” he said.

In the regular council meeting after the hearing, councilors heard the first of three readings to repeal the law. With only one council meeting scheduled in September, the measure is on track for a final vote Oct. 8.

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