Jacksonville moving ahead with barbed wire ban

The Jacksonville City Council on Thursday night conducted a first reading of a proposed ordinance that would ban the use of razor or barbed wire.

The proposed ordinance would ban its usage in all zones within Jacksonville. However, after discussions by aldermen, the council is considering making it a ban in residential areas only.

“There is razor wire and barb wire in the city,” said Jim Durham, director of administration. “There is nothing in the ordinance that stops someone from having a three- or four-foot-high fence of razor or barbed wire. Jay and I feel it is an endangerment.”

Durham said he wants to see a ban of any wire that is less than six feet high.

“The problem is where the fence is three feet tall,” Durham said.

"children can get hurt if barbed or razor wire is too close to the ground."

The ordinance would allow people or businesses wishing to use barbed or razor wire to ask the city planning commission to approve an exemption for them.

Durham said the exemption clause was left in the ordinance to allow people who need these types of fencing to ask the city’s permission to do so.

Robert Bamburg, city attorney, said he drafted the ordinance to be similar to what Little Rock and North Little Rock are doing about barbed or razor wire usage in their cities.

If an ordinance is passed, Durham said people now using it would not be grandfathered in. Rather, they would need to go to the city planning commission to seek an exemption.

The ordinance would not just ban barbed or razor fencing.

According to Section One, the ordinance reads, “All fencing, screening, walls, or other such construction shall be in compliance with the terms of the JMC [Jacksonville Municipal Code], which prohibits the use of barbed wire, razor wire, or other sharp materials in construction of fencing, screening, or walls.”

Durham said he and other city officials are trying to get ahead of the problem.

“In Mexico, what some people like to do is to put up brick fences and put glass in the top of it,” Durham said. “You will see that here as the Hispanic population grows if you don’t regulate it.”

Alderman Bill Howard agreed with passing such an ordinance.

“I don’t like barb wire at all in residential areas,” Howard said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said erecting barbed or razor wire can give the impression that areas of town looked like a prison camp.

“It is not conducive to the neighborhoods we want to promote,” Fletcher said.

Durham said the city’s code enforcement office will not be conducting a door-to-door campaign to check out if every city house is using barbed or razor wire.

“There are not enough code enforcement officers to go around for them to go all around the city and look for things,” Durham said.

Durham said most barbed or razor wire issues would be handled if someone complains to the city.

Durham said part of the reason the issue came up was because city workers have come across homeowners in town who are using barbed or razor wire.

“We have told them they should not be doing that and they would ask us, ‘Where is there a city ordinance that says we can’t’?”

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