Town clarifies fence rules for swimming pools

The Township of West Milford recently introduced an ordinance to clarify fence requirements for those who have above or below ground swimming pools on their properties. Mayor Michele Dale and the Township Council saw this as necessary action after they determined that local rules for fencing requirements for swimming pools on residential lots have been unclear.

The ordinance will have a public hearing on August 17 in the town hall meeting room at 6:30 p.m., giving people an opportunity to make any comments they have to the council or ask questions about the proposed ordinance. The council is then expected to vote the ordinance provisions into law.

The local ordinance, part of the township’s zoning code titled “Swimming pools (above and below ground),” is proposed to be amended as follows: A private, below ground residential swimming pool area shall be surrounded by a suitable fence with a self-latching gate at least four feet but no more than six feet high. A private above ground residential swimming pool shall require a latched ladder. (NJ state law also requires these parameters.) All swimming pools shall meet the appropriate design standards as set forth by the National Swimming Pool Institute and requirements of the Uniform Construction Code.

The requirement to fence home swimming pools comes under NJS1073 which establishes William’s Law” pertaining to pool safety. State Senator Anthony R. Bucco (District 24 – Morris and Somerset) first introduced the bill in 2014 after the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that an estimated 350 children under five years of age drown in swimming pools (many of them residential) each year. According to the CDC, 254 kids under five drowned in swimming pools in 2020 alone. These statistics mean that drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under age five.

As used in the law, “swimming pool” means any structure intended for swimming and for purposes of the law shall include any affixed structure or contained body of water 18 inches or more in depth at any point and under eight feet at any point. Aside from swimming pools, this also applies to hot tubs, non-portable spas, home ponds and fountains.

Individuals who fail to abide by provisions of the law could be subject to a disorderly person’s offense. This can be redacted if they have made a good faith effort to remedy the issue within 45 days. NJS1073 that establishes William’s Law pertaining to swimming pool safety can be found in full on the internet.