Fences, Hedges & Walls – Frequently Asked Questions


Where can I put my fence?

Fence heights on private property are subject to restrictions depending on their location on the property. There also may be restrictions based on public or private easements or building envelopes. Home Owner Associations also may have requirements that must be met.

What are setback lines?

Restrictions on the height of fences are based on setback lines. A setback designates the distance that buildings must be set back from a property line, sidewalk, or adopted street plan line. Setback lines are established by the Zoning Code, development plans, policy statements or final maps. The space between the setback line and the designated distance at which you can build is a required yard.

Setbacks may also be shown on final maps as building envelopes. These are specifically drawn setback lines for each lot. Structures must be built within the envelope. Some development plans or policy statements for subdivisions may specify if fencing is allowed outside the envelope. They also may detail height restrictions or the type of fencing allowed. If the basic zoning setback and building envelope setbacks differ, the more limiting requirement applies.

Because setbacks vary they should be checked with staff at the City of Waterford, 101 E Street, or by telephone at 209-874-2328.

What are the height restrictions?

There are two types of lots discussed below, interior lots and exterior lots. If your lot is at the intersection of two or more streets, you have an exterior (or corner) lot. Otherwise, your lot is an interior lot.

Interior lots: In the area between the street and the main building’s required front setback line, fence heights may not exceed three feet. Fences behind the main building’s required front yard setback may not exceed a height of six feet.

Exterior lots: If your lot is on a corner, the side yard next to the street is called an exterior side yard. In addition to the three foot front yard height above, fencing in the area between the street and the exterior side yard setback is also limited to three feet. Fences behind these two required setbacks may not exceed a height of six feet. Corner lot fencing also must comply with “Vision Triangle” requirements. (See below.)

How is fence height measured?

Fence height is measured as the vertical distance from the lowest adjoining grade to the top most portion of the fence. Lattice attached to the fence is included in the height measurement.

How do I apply for a fence higher than the zoning code allows?

A Conditional Use Permit may be granted to allow fences over these height restrictions. This can only happen when certain requirements are met. These are based on unusual or special circumstances or conditions relating to the property such as, safety issues, design compatibility with the site and the neighborhood. A Conditional Use Permit will not be approved for a fence higher than three feet in the Vision Triangle. (See staff for more detailed information.)

A brochure describing the Conditional Use Permit application process is available at City Hall.


If I plant a hedge around my property instead of a fence, can it exceed height restrictions?

The term “fence” as used here includes fences, hedges, walls or structures in the nature of a fence. Therefore, height restrictions would still apply.

What is a vision triangle?

Vision Triangles apply only to corner lots. They are formed by drawing lines from the point of intersection of a lot’s street corner property lines to points thirty feet along the two property lines, and then connecting the two points with a straight line.

In a residential district, no wall, fence, or hedge higher than three feet will be allowed in the Vision Triangle. In any other district, no wall, fence, hedge or other obstruction to view will be allowed between three and eight feet above grade on any corner lot within the Vision Triangle.