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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Neighborhood fence rules will be discussed at next commission meeting

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

One complaint from a neighbor has left Esther Clark and her husband, Devlon, in despair after receiving a letter from the county commissioners requesting the couple take down their newly built fence.

The couple built a six foot high cedar fence around two sides of their house that face Ave. C and 2nd Street in Highland Park at the beginning of September in order to keep their dogs, one in particular, out of harms way.

Esther explained the fence was originally to keep their 110 pound bulldog in the yard because he would go through any lower fence and/or a chain link fence.

“Children in the neighborhood taunt the dog and throw rocks to provoke him,” Esther said. “He’s our baby and we just want to protect him.”

The Clarks technically don’t have a backyard so the only room they have for the dogs is the front and side yard that is currently fenced in.

The fence is situated on the corner of a three way intersection where there are no stop signs or yield signs. The fence is seen as a visibility hazard when making a turn at the intersection. This configuration is referred to as a “clear vision triangle” in regards to two motorists being able to see each other around the corner.

Esther did take this into consideration and has the fence veering slightly from the corner for better visibility.

After the complaint was made, the Clarks were sent a letter in the mail saying the fence does not meet zoning standard of three feet or less and that the matter will be taken to court if the fence is not down by the end of October.

According to the Dawson County website, within the Highland Park Planning and Zoning District Regulations, section 9.6 states, “No fence over thirty-six inches in height may be erected within the required front yard of any lot used for residential purposes.” 

To add insult to injury, after the Clarks had received the letter, they say they started looking around their neighborhood and found 30-40 fences in Highland Park that don’t meet the zoning standard.

“Just one complaint and we’re the only ones who have to take our fence down,” Esther said.

The Clarks sought out the approval of their landlord Vicki Deveraux before the fence was built and had a crew construct the $2,000 fence.

According to county commissioner Dennis Zander the single complaint came via telephone call. Commissioner Doug Buxbaum followed up and looked at the fence while it was still being built and spoke with the contractors who were building it. Buxbaum then called Deveraux with the concern before the letter was issued to the Clarks.

After the Clarks received the letter, Deveraux made calls to the commissioners and Forrest Sanderson, the county planner, to find out what could be done.

According to Deveraux, commissioners Doug Buxbaum and Dennis Zander said it wouldn’t be hard to change the zoning standards.

Deveraux said the commissioners only solution would be to get enough Highland Park residents to sign a petition and bring it to the zoning commission to change the regulation. A petition signed by fifty percent of all Highland Park residents would need to be in order for the regulation change.

Clark said she waited for the letter to come from the commissioners before she started a petition to change the zoning standard for front yard fences.

“We waited and held off on the petition because we wanted to see a letter and then we found out we were the only ones who got one,” Esther said. “It’s like they’re picking on us.”

Deveraux said the Clarks are in the process of buying the house and she blames herself to a certain extent because she hadn’t made the proper calls or looked at the zoning regulations on the county’s website because she was so caught up in her own life during this time period.

“My husband and I just don’t want to face the legal ramifications,” Deveraux said. “Especially because we’re selling the property.”

Deveraux has also taken notice of the other fences in Highland Park and mentioned a chain link fence with grape ivy growing on it making visibility around the corner hard as well. This fence sits across the street from the Clark’s.

Deveraux hopes the issue will be resolved in a peaceful manner and sees this as a chance for Highland Park residents to come together.

“It’s a good neighborhood and I’d just like to see people be more proactive so these things wouldn’t happen,” Deveraux said.

At Thursday night’s zoning commission meeting, commissioners agreed to take public comments about Highland Park fences at the next commissioners meeting since there are an abundance of fences out of compliance in the subdivision. The next county commissioners meeting is Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Dawson County Courthouse. Signed written comments will be accepted from Oct. 17 to Nov. 8. All comments must be signed and turned in by noon on Nov. 8 to the county commissioners. 

At the Nov. 9 meeting, a formal public hearing for Highland Park residents will be held at 5:15 p.m. at the Dawson County Courthouse.

Reach Kyle Vuille at
news@rangerreview.com.

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