GLEN ELLEN (KPIX) — Todd O’Donnell rebuilt his Glen Ellen home after it was burned in the Wine Country wildfires which tore through Glen Ellen in 2017 and destroyed nearly 9,000 structures in total.
His old six-foot-high fence — like his old house — was lost. The new fence is in the same place but is a foot higher.
“The fence, apparently, is too tall and unsightly for the scenic corridor,” O’Donnell explained. “Somebody … drove by and complained.”
That anonymous complainer called Sonoma County Code Enforcement and, even though a six-foot fence was there for decades before the fire, the county said it must be cut down to 3 1/2 feet.
“They want almost $2,000 for a use permit. I reached out to them twice and then I received another letter in the mail saying that I owed them almost $500 in daily fines!” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell’s new house and fence is hundreds of feet away from Highway 12 but it falls just inside the “scenic highway” zone.
O’Donnell is offering a compromise.
“I’d willing to put the fence back to the height it was prior and even plant some vegetation to help soften and hide it,” he said.
A spokesperson for the county told KPIX the planning department is not in a position to negotiate. The code is the code.
Sonoma County supervisor Susan Gorin, who is also rebuilding her burned house, stopped by to consult with O’Donnell.
She says there’s room for compromise.
“My job is to ‘unstick’ some issues, if you will. And there are a couple of code enforcement actions that I’m trying to unstick currently,” Gorin said.
O’Donnell just wants the whole thing to go away.
“I just want to have things go back to the way they were before the fire. We just want to get our lives back on track,” he said.