MAYWOOD — To keep graffiti writers at bay and protect his rose bushes from dogs, Ronnie Robbins built a five-foot ornamental wrought-iron fence around his home.
Robbins said city officials gave him permission to build the fence. City building inspectors even praised his work, he added.
But he recently received a letter from the city telling him to lower the fence by a foot or tear it down.
A new building inspector, conducting final checks, found that fences built by Robbins and several other property owners violate a city ordinance that limits the height of fences to four feet, said Ronald L. Lindsey, director of building and planning. Similar letters were mailed to 15 to 20 residents, he said.
Robbins, 75, a retired roofing contractor who has lived in Maywood more than 50 years, decided to fight City Hall.
He and his wife, Ione, distributed leaflets to other residents who had built wrought iron fences, and urged them to attend the City Council's meeting last Monday. About 100 people showed up.
Robbins and his supporters won, even before they had a chance to speak to the council. Mayor Rose Marie Busciglio assured them that they would not have to tear down the fences. "I told them they did not have to worry," she said.
Busciglio said she told the city staff to prepare an ordinance amendment that would exempt existing wrought-iron fences. "But any new fences will have to comply," she said.
The mayor said she toured the city of 25,000 residents before the council meeting, and saw numerous homes with wrought iron fences.
"This is fancy stuff," she said. "People put so much work and money into them. It would kill them to have to take them down."
The city Planning Commission is expected to discuss the ordinance July 18. Any recommendations would require council approval.
The ordinance originally was intended to restrict the height of solid fences, such as brick barriers, which might block the views of drivers leaving driveways, said Lindsey, the building and planning director.
There were not many wrought-iron fences when the law was written, he added.