Guideline No. 17 – Fencing

An Exterior Alteration Application must be submitted for all fence construction.

Exterior Alteration Application Requirements

The application must include:

  • Diagrammed site plan showing the location of the fence and gate(s). Note: Applications without a diagrammed plot plan will not be accepted.
  • Completed Fence Worksheet.
  • Description, brochure, drawing, or photo of fence and gate style.
  • Materials to be used.
  • The architectural style and color of the house.
  • Fence dimensions on the site (plot) plan which shows the relationship to adjacent houses, open spaces, and property.
  • Description of the style of other fences in the immediate area.
  • Description of the type of screening to be used, if applicable. See GUIDELINE No.47—SCREENING.
  • Description of how the fence will be secured.

Your fence application will most likely be approved if it meets the following criteria:

  1. The fence matches the style and height of existing, approved fencing on adjacent properties and in the general vicinity.
  2. The fence set back is a minimum of 4 feet from the edge of a walking surface and is on the owner’s property.
  3. Fence posts are secured or placed in concrete to prevent sections from blowing down. Fences not adhering to these stipulations will be considered in violation.
  4. Staining is clear. If staining is not clear it must be applied for or requested as part of the Exterior Alteration Application process and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  5. Fence gates match the fence in style, height, color, and materials and do not swing onto neighbor’s property.
  6. Have a finished side facing out i.e., if necessary, fences must be finished on both sides.
  7. The fence comes off the back edge of the house.

NOTE: Front yard fencing is not allowed (except where builder installed as part of an original design concept.) Rear yard fencing, which would create front yard fencing for a neighbor, will not be approved. The Committee will not approve chain link, wire, wire with hedge fences, or privacy fencing of the basket weave or stockade styles (except where it conforms to the original builder-installed design within the same development.) If welded wire mesh (sold as hardware cloth”), galvanized, or vinyl coated welded wire mesh is used, it must be of durable material, black or green in color, and not readily visible. Wire must be applied to the inside only and may not extend above the top rail. Poultry and chicken wire is not permitted and will not be approved.

Acceptable Fence Styles


  1. Transparent (e.g., 3-board or split rail) should be 42 or 48 inches at the height of the top rail for a 3-rail/board fence. These fences should remain natural.
  2. Semi-transparent, such as picket fences, can be property line fencing in certain cases. These fences must remain natural, should be uniform in height e.g., either 42 or 48 inches from grade, must be installed in a vertical manner, and should be of a simple style such as dog eared, standard gothic picket, or French/Colonial gothic picket. The tops of the posts must be level with the pickets and the post caps should match the fence finish.
  3. Opaque/Privacy (ex., board-on-board and panel, 5 to 6 feet in height) shall be visually attached to the house. Due to their solid nature and the potential for impact on the Columbia concept of open space and adjacent properties, these fences should only be designed for a specific purpose e.g., to screen hot tubs, pools, and patios, be used sparingly, and have minimal impact on neighbors. Special attention should be given to construction of solid fences to avoid wind damage. In areas of sloping terrain, the fence sections should be stepped, and any horizontal rails be made to match in the same plane. These fences should remain natural.
  4. Iron and Aluminum Fences. Open wrought iron or aluminum fences will only be considered for pools and not along property lines. They must be a minimum of 3-1/2 feet from the property line.

Townhouses and Condominiums:

  1. Fences shall match builder installed as to style unless the individual associations and/or the Architectural Committee have approved alternative styles.

NOTE: Invisible fencing should be on your own property or property line. On shared property lines or corner properties invisible fence should be 4 feet inside the property line.

Guideline No. 18 – Fire Pits

An Exterior Alteration Application must be submitted for all in ground fire pits (Wood, Propane or Gas).

Exterior Alteration Application Requirements

The application must include:

  • Diagrammed plot plan detailing the location of the fire pit.
    Note: Applications without a diagrammed plot plan will not be accepted.
  • All dimensions of fire pit above and below ground.
  • Description of materials and colors.
  • Manufacturers drawing or brochure, if applicable.
  • Description of fire pit cover for wood burning fire pits.


Your application will most likely be approved if it meets the following criteria:

  1. The fire pit is made of non-combustible material with sides that measure at least 18 inches from the bottom of the pit to the top.
  2. The pit is made of non-combustible material and is at least 18 inches in height and contains fuel wood or coals.
  3. Has a 4-6 inch slab/base, made of non-combustible material.
  4. Has a shield that prevents ashes from being blown by the wind.
  5. The center of the pit is 15 feet or more away from any combustible vegetation or structures, vertically and horizontally.
  6. Vegetation, overhanging branches, or any other flammable material has been removed or is no closer than 15 feet from the center of the pit.
  7. There is, at least, a 6-foot apron of pavers or non-combustible material around the fire pit consisting of a layer of mineral soil, sand, pea gravel, or concrete.
  8. A screen with openings no greater than 1 inch will be placed over the fire pit.
  9. The fire pit is equipped with spark arrestors.
  10. The fire area does not exceed 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height.
  11. The fire pit apron meets the minimum material depth and distance requirements (it can be any shape).
  12. The fire pit has a cover.

NOTE: The RHAC reserves the ability to revoke use of a fire pit until fire danger is reduced any time a higher-than-normal fire hazard exists.

Guideline No. 19 – Fireplace and Hearths (Outdoor)

See the following guidelines:










Guideline No. 20a – Gardens: Flower and/or Vegetable

Gardens that exceed 225 square feet, side yard vegetable gardens, extensive foundation planting, or when significant garden changes are planned, require an Exterior Alteration Application for consideration by the RHAC. 

Exterior Alteration Application Requirements

An examination of applications will be based on the following criteria: 

  • Diagrammed plot plan showing the location and dimensions of the garden is required. Note: Applications without a diagrammed plot plan will not be accepted.
  • Any fencing on the plan, including the dimensions and materials, if applicable.
  • Planting materials to be used for screening, if applicable.
  • Description of the type of temporary wire to be used to keep small animals out of the garden area, if applicable. Temporary wire fencing of wire mesh may be used to keep out small animals. Total height of the fencing , including support, shall not exceed 36 inches and must be removed at the end of the planting season. 
  • A description of plants or vegetables to be grown, including its height at maturity. Utilization of low-impact, environmentally responsible landscaping techniques and use of Maryland native plants is preferred. 
  • A description of plant growth medium material.
  • Gardens that are placed on a grade may not add or contribute to soil erosion or property damage.

Your Exterior Alteration Application will most likely be approved if the following conditions are met:

  1. Garden is not placed on a grade that may lead to soil erosion or property damage.
  2. It is not a front yard vegetable garden. These will not be approved.

No Approval Required

An Exterior Alteration Application will not be required when either of the following criteria is met;

  1. Small plots, located at the back of the house that do not extend more than 3 feet from the foundation wall and do not exceed the length of the house.
  2. One single plot per property located within the rear lines of the house and the rear property line in which ALL of the following conditions are met:

A. size does not exceed 225 square feet.

B. garden is not placed on a grade that may lead to soil erosion or property damage.

NOTE: Temporary wire fencing of welded wire mesh may be used to keep out small animals. Total height of fencing for vegetable gardens, including support, shall not exceed 36 inches and must be removed at the end of the planting season.

When having any bulk garden materials delivered, please have items placed on your own property or driveway, not sidewalk, right-of-way, etc., and have reasonable amounts delivered. Items may not be stored in a visible location for more than 1 week.

Failure to maintain your garden is a violation of the maintenance provisions of the River Hill Village Covenants. See GUIDELINE NO.31—Maintenance.

NOTE: In Howard County, last frost date is May 6th; first frost date is October 6th.