Residents of Phoenix’s Historic Willo District face fines for walls over 6 feet


Neighbors living in a historic district Phoenix neighborhood say they were shocked when threatened with a letter saying they were violating a city ordinance regarding the height of the walls of their homes.

The neighbors of the Historic Willo District say it’s the first time they’ve heard of a problem after living in it for years. Now people who have lived there for decades suddenly face potential fines or worse.

“It’s supposed to be six feet,” said Eric Chapman, who received a letter from the city of Phoenix last year saying his wall was just too high.

He was told to fix it or suffer the consequences.

Chapman says he’s been trying to get in touch with the city since February. He has lived in the house for 12 years and has never heard that he was out of compliance.

“Not a word,” he said. “And there are people who have been here for 40 or 50 years in the same boat.”

Historic districts typically cap the height of the wall at six feet.

Chapman’s wall is about six feet and two inches high, but it could face thousands in fines.

Neighbors say it started because of a much taller 7ft wall.

“We assume they were notified of a breach and during the pandemic. They went around and surrendered, we assume 40 to 50 owners,” Chapman said.

The city of Phoenix said its outreach service department was investigating the complaints. The letter from the city says those violating them can face a fine of $ 2,500 a day or even jail time.

However, Chapman says he just can’t get the city to hear him.

“In my opinion, this is a show of bureaucracy. I don’t know what else to do, I try to help other neighbors. solved the problem. ‘”

The city responded to a few questions via email, saying that a municipal court judge could have the final say on whether or not a fee is charged. It encourages neighbors looking for waivers or waivers to email [email protected].

Here are the questions the city answered:

Q1. Are these neighbors currently accumulating fines and will they have to pay them?

“In cases of zoning violation, fines can only be imposed by the Municipal Court after a responsible party has been found responsible for one or more charges under the city code by plea or judgment . When a party is fined by the court, the fine and court costs are due and payable to the court on the day the sentence is pronounced.

Q2. Some of these neighbors say they have lived in their homes for years without a problem, why now?

“To begin with, all of the high fencing cases that we are currently pursuing were initiated by complaints from residents received by the Neighborhood Services Department (NSD). The NSD is investigating alleged zoning violations based on complaints.

NSD understands residents’ concerns about investigations involving structures that have been around for a long time, as it is common for code compliance inspectors to be confronted with. NSD performs extensive due diligence in these cases to determine if there is a complaint of a violation. It is important to keep in mind that occupying a property for an extended period of time does not usually resolve a zoning violation. In some cases, there are non-conforming rights that can be proven by the owner. This may include structures that were annexed to the city and which currently remain unchanged. In other cases, there is an appropriate building permit, use permit, or zoning deviation that allows a structure that does not meet all of the zoning requirements to remain as is. The cases of NSD that have come forward are those where non-compliant rights, permits and waivers have not been proven or obtained by the owners. “

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