It was the 20th century American poet Robert Frost who wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
But when Oildale homeowner Drew Torris built a new fence in his front yard this spring, a neighbor complained to the county’s code compliance division that Torris’ 5 foot tall fence is too tall.
Last week, the 31-year-old husband and father received a notice from the division making the complaint official.
"The Kern County Code Compliance Division has received a complaint alleging that violations of the Kern County Ordinance Code may exist at the identified address," the letter reads. It goes on to identify the alleged violation: "Fence in excess of height restriction."
"When it happened, we were both upset about it," Torris said of him and his wife Amber's initial response to the letter.
So last week, Torris brought his case before the court of public opinion — on Facebook group page called "You know you're from Oildale when." And the comments started rolling in, totaling 274 by Monday morning.
If the comments are any indication, a large majority of Torris' Oildale neighbors are behind him.
"I think it looks great. So does your yard," Lorie Hilbern-Grigsby wrote on the Facebook post. "Probably the nicest looking place in the neighborhood."
"It looks beautiful," wrote Diane Barker, another commenter.
Ricky Keel of Fence Menders, a local fence contractor in Oildale, said one reason for the height regulations is to ensure that the vision of motorists is not blocked and neighbors can safely pull out of their driveways.
"I have to adhere to the rules every single day when we build new fences," he said.
Torris said he believes most of his neighbors are pleased with the fence.
“Many neighbors have told us how great it looks — and people driving by too, (people) we’ve never met,” Torris said in his post.
If you drive just about any direction from the family's Ray Street address, blight and disrepair are all too common. There's an old love seat dumped near the sidewalk a few streets away. The fences in the neighborhood — including the ones that are code compliant — are often unattractive chain link or broken-down pickets.
One front yard fence at Oildale Drive and Decatur Street is about 6 feet tall and covers both sides of the corner lot. And, unlike Torris' fence, one can't see through the solid wood slats. Apparently it's been there for years.
Al Rojas, code compliance supervisor, said the division responds to complaints. Officers don't normally patrol the streets looking for violations.
So if the fence on Decatur, or the couch on the sidewalk, or the junker car parked in the front yard, never received a complaint, code compliance officials may have no occasion to address the issue or visit the location.
But Torris received a complaint, which demanded a response.
Rojas confirmed that, according to the zoning ordinance, the maximum height of the Torris family's front fence is indeed 4 feet.
"He contacted our office," Rojas said. "He was informed he can get a zone modification."
But going to Planning for such a modification begins at $1,490.
So Torris figures his best option may be to cut the top off the fence so that it no longer exceeds the height restriction.
But that doesn't mean he has to like it.