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Need for new fence ordinance raised in Seymour

By Lea Kopke
Staff Writer

SEYMOUR – A new proposed fence ordinance was the topic of discussion at the Aug. 9 committee of the whole meeting.

During public input, Tom and Joan Ostrowski came to the board with concerns regarding the placement of their neighbor’s fence.

Joan Ostrowski said a decorative split rail fence has been up between the two houses for 35 years, but a new neighbor moved in and began building a fence that would be closer to the Ostrowski house, sit partway on their driveway and extend to the sidewalk.

Director of Public Works John Schoen said he told the neighbor only a surveyor could find the correct lot line – it can’t be found with his own measurements.

City Administrator Sean Hutchison said the neighbor has a valid fence permit, so the city nor the police can do anything unless a certified land survey is submitted which proves the new fence would cross onto the Ostrowski’s land.

Joan Ostrowski said she didn’t understand why she would have to pay $850 to get the land surveyed if it’s her neighbor who’s putting the fence up.

Mayor Ryan Kraft said the city empathized with Ostrowski’s struggles, which is why the city is working on a new fence ordinance that is designed to prevent such situations.

“The biggest challenges we’ve had in the past couple of years have been around fences on lot lines,” Kraft said. “Identifying where is that lot line? Because we don’t have a surveyor on staff that does these things.”

Council President Roger Behnke said he wished the committee could do more.

“(The ordinance change) should’ve been done years ago,” Behnke said. “As a council, I don’t think we knew there were so many issues with it until it was brought to our attention.”

Later in the meeting, the committee reviewed portions of the proposed ordinance.

After debate, the committee decided the ordinance will state:

• A certified land survey is required for all fence permit applications.

• A fence permit is not required for maintenance if the original permit was taken out on or after the effective date of the ordinance.

• People have 30 days from the date a permit is issued to begin constructing their fence, and 90 days to finish it, so there is less chance of lot markers being moved.

• A fence can be built up to the lot line. However, the permit application will state the city recommends placing the fence 2 feet back off the property line to permit room for the proper maintenance of the fence and lawn.

The draft’s changes will be reviewed at the committee’s next meeting Sept. 13, after which it could be sent to the council for approval.

In other discussions:

• The committee made a resolution requesting the council to proceed with Milbach Construction Services’ bid for the new Lake Park footbridge.

• Hutchison said he will have the city’s staff make a pros and cons list for allowing chickens in R1 zones. Kraft said when the city looked at this issue in the past, it found it doesn’t have the money necessary for the oversight involved. No action would be taken until November or December.

• The committee looked at bartender license qualifications submitted by Police Chief Isaac Schultz. It will again review them at its September meeting.

• The committee discussed ways to use its American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Hutchison said the priority is to replace storm sewer, sanitary sewer and water mainlines, but the city would have leftover funding to extend a water main to the Zeise subdivision and/or conduct a study to identify ways of eliminating higher levels of materials like lead and copper.

Hutchison said he would send out more budget information to the committee, and hopefully, a decision could be made by September.

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