The American Privacy Fence Dream

The Gingerbread Diaries

If you recall the little dance we did while buying the house, namely the circle of hell that was needing a new roof to get insurance, needing insurance to get the loan, needing the loan to get the roof, ad nauseam, we’re now facing it’s little sister: the driveway/fence dilemma.

We’ve wanted to put up a privacy fence along the side and back yard pretty much since buying the house. It’s not that we don’t like our neighbors, it’s more that we don’t want to be in the fishbowl every time we’re out there. Now that we have Duncan, a fence is even more important—the side yard is adequate for him to run around a little bit, but the back yard is better for playing fetch and pretty much everything else.

The only thing is, the back yard is currently where we park. And that’s because (and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in the past) we share a driveway with our neighbors and it’s really the only option right now.

I take that back: we could park on the street, it’s certainly not unheard of. Clay St is definitely wide enough (which comes in handy for parties), but it’s also a busy street and the idea of being in a prime spot to be hit in the middle of the night doesn’t appeal. We could also park in the front yard, like we did when we first bought the place and we’re too sure we wouldn’t get nails in our tires in the backyard during construction, but I don’t want to do that on the regular, either.

With a bit of landscaping, we might be able to put a driveway in on the other side of the house. I say might because it depends on getting city approval. Not for the landscaping, but for the driveway itself. And what makes that more of a question, is that the main water line to the house would run under the proposed driveway location AND the access panel would be very near the driveway itself. We don’t know, yet, if that’s really going to be a problem or not.

There are steps to take.

First, we called a local surveyor and it was weeks before Todd got a call back from him (or any of the others we called). Seriously, they must not need the work. He was finally going to come out, but was supposed to call Todd before he did (so Todd could be there? I’m not 100% sure). Suddenly, one day we come home and there are flags around our property line. Did we know he was coming that day? Nope.

Anyway, great, we knew where our property line was (which was where we thought it was, so no big surprise, there). But what about the report?

The report, survey, some sort of documentation of our property layout was really what we wanted. Because it’s that thing we have to turn into the city with an indicator of where the proposed driveway would go (just drawn in was what I was told) to get the yay or nay from the city. But we have no report. And he’s not returning Todd’s calls.

He’s also not hounding us to pay the bill he eventually sent, either, so see my point above about not really needing the work.

So, Plan B.

I’ve asked Todd to measure the neighbor’s/our shared driveway to get an indication of how wide a space we need to allow for (no, the city website is no help when it comes to driveways’ necessary dimensions or anything else). Then we’ll mark off, on the curb, the same amount of space and take a picture of the proposed site both from the front as well as from the bedroom window, above. Then we’ll sketch the driveway in on a blown-up copy from the property appraiser’s site and hope that suffices. If we have to jog the driveway a bit to allow sufficient space around the main water access, we can do that, too.

I just want our own driveway so we can get the fenced backyard, but they will need to happen more or less simultaneously, so that Duncan doesn’t have his hall pass revoked for longer than absolutely necessary.

Worst case scenario, we get approval for the driveway, build the backyard fence while parking on the curb, and then have the new driveway installed. And, really, all installed means is just to have the sidewalk interrupted and graded, the rest we can choose to do later.

My big wonder at the moment is whether we should go ahead and take down the ginormous azalea bush that sits exactly where the driveway would be now or later. Same goes for the sprawling but not very big in reality something-tree (it has white flowers but no scent, who knows what it is) that would need to come down to make it possible for us to park in the side yard.

And then there’s the idea of building out a deck onto the back of the utility room where we could store the grill on the same level as the rest of the house and reroute the stairs a bit, but that may be a longer-term project.


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