The Bay Area-based owners of Rosemont Plaza have lost a legal battle against Sacramento County, but it's unclear what comes next.
The county's Code Enforcement Department said in January that .
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors unanimously denied that appeal Tuesday, telling the shopping center's owners they must either build a masonry wall or apply for a zoning permit to sit down with the county to find another solution–like a taller, more solid wood fence or a masonry wall in some areas and a wood fence in others.
"I think this is what happens when you have a longstanding disagreement about what being a good neighbor is," said Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna.
Rosemont Plaza officials have 45 days to decide which option they'll pursue, and gave no indication which they would prefer.
Much of Tuesday's meeting was a heated back-and-forth between Rosemont Plaza officials and Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, who represents Rosemont.
"If I told you to go tear down your fence, would there be any fence to tear down?" Nottoli asked, questioning whether the plaza owners have been "good neighbors."
The wood fences behind the shopping center were built by the residents, not the shopping center.
Mike Alcheck, Rosemont Plaza's Director of Operations, said it would be unfair to require a masonry wall at the Kiefer Boulevard shopping center when other nearby centers aren't required to build one.
"I need them to build this wall," he said. "I can't compete."
Sacramento County staff said they don't have the manpower to drive around looking for shopping centers without masonry walls, and Alcheck said if his shopping center was forced to build one, he would report every other out-of-compliance shopping center to the county.
"If my expenses are much higher than my neighbor… then I can't compete for the [same tenants]," he said. "This is a tax. … It's a fence tax."
Alcheck also said the masonry wall issue "was being used as a carrot," and said most of the issues facing the center would not be solved by a thicker wall.
Supervisor Jimmy Yee said the fence didn't seem like the main issue.
"I'm hearing that the fence was just the excuse to get the owners to come to the board and talk [about other problems]," Yee said.
Vice President Terry Dugan suggested most of the conflicts between the plaza and its neighbors could be solved by other requirements not related to a fence.
Alcheck said the center has already responded to some complaints from residents: security guards are now in uniform, pedestrian access to the rear of the center is now blocked, and street-sweeping of the parking lot is now done during the day. He also said the owners have reached out to the .
"We've taken many steps to address the specific issues that have been raised," he said.
Alcheck and Rosemont Plaza attorney Ronit Bodner urged the county to amend its zoning code to allow fences to be grandfathered in. They worried that the county could change its requirements for fences the day after their new fence is finished, and they would have to start over.
"There is absolutely no clarity as to what the county wants," Bodner said.