The Marion Board of Health decided on August 28 that it would start following the State’s code pertaining to pool security fences instead of its own, going back down to a 4-foot height minimum rather than Marion’s 6-foot minimum. But before that consensus was made, the board voted against the health agent’s advice, allowing for a 4-foot pool security fence, a move that Health Agent Karen Walega said would prompt other residents to seek the same.
David Davignon of N. Douglas Schneider & Associates, on behalf of 166 Allen’s Point Road, received a Variance to allow for a 4-foot high perimeter security fence for an in-ground pool, instead of the 6-foot requirement. In addition to the 4-foot fence, Davignon said the property owner would provide an automated locking security cover over the pool.
Davignon pointed out that the State’s code requires a 4-foot fence, while Marion’s code went above and beyond, requiring 6 feet.
“Typically, it’s 4 feet,” Davignon said.
In 1996 Marion amended its sanitary code to require 6 feet instead of 4 feet.
“We were concerned about the children of the town,” Walega said in response to Board of Health Chairman Jason Reynold’s question as to why the Town changed the code.
Earlier in the meeting, Walega defended the 6-foot minimum, saying, “I’ve just heard too may cases of the two-year-old going outside. … It’s a horrible situation.”
Walega told the board that neighboring Rochester’s height requirement was also 6 feet, but later corrected herself, telling the board that Rochester’s code follows the State’s 4-foot minimum.
“I don’t think a toddler can scale a 4-foot fence,” Board of Health member Betsy Dunn said.
But Walega wasn’t yet convinced.
“You’re gonna open the floodgates because everybody is just waiting to see what happens with this,” said Walega.
Reynolds asked Davignon, “Is the reason for the barrier aesthetics?”
“Yes,” Davignon said. He again pointed out that the State’s code calls for 4 feet, reminding the board that the property owner is also willing to install the lockable pool cover.
“I would propose that the 4 feet is acceptable in this case,” said Board of Health member John Howard, making a motion.
Reynolds was hesitant, saying, “For me this is not an issue for the automatic cover because I don’t necessarily see that as a failsafe mechanism.
“My only concern is, are we setting a precedent? As a board, are we willing to essentially rewrite our sanitary code to allow for a 4-foot fence? Because the minute we vote on this variance, in essence, everyone else is going to be coming for it.”
Dunn asked, “Are we prepared to say a 4-foot is okay everywhere?”
Or, perhaps, is a 4-foot fence okay as long as a secondary measure is employed, such as a security cover?
“Who is going to be the pool fence Gestapo to say this doesn’t work or the pool alarm or whatever?,” asked Walega. A property owner might use and maintain a security cover now, but what about two, three years from now, she wondered aloud.
After a brief pause, Reynolds conceded to the 4 feet.
“I think that in this case, I’m willing to go with the Mass building code,” he said.
The vote was 2-0, with Dunn abstaining from voting.
“I just can’t make up my mind,” she stated.
Howard asked that the matter be placed on a future agenda for discussion, and Walega was visibly frustrated.
“So you’re going to go by the state code now?” Walega asked. “It’s gonna happen, they’re all gonna come in.”
Towards the end of the meeting, after Walega reported that Rochester’s code was actually for 4 feet, she expressed her approval of following the State code.
In other matters, the board approved a septic Variance for 32 Ichabod Lane.
The board also approved a Variance to reduce the setback requirement from 10 feet to 6 feet for a new shallow trench infiltrator system for 3 Wildflower Lane.
The board approved two variance requests for Foresight Engineering on behalf of 498A and 498C Point Road.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health will be September 11 at 4:30 pm at the Marion Town House.
Marion Board of Health
By Jean Perry