Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Local businessman promises to fight for his new fence


Jacob S. Johnson vows to keep fighting to keep the chain link fence he installed at his Mullin Street home.

The problem?

Mr. Johnson put up the fence at 261 Mullin St. though he “absolutely” knew that it would violate the city’s fence ordinance, he said Wednesday. And the city has since notified him that the fence does, indeed, violate parts of the ordinance.

For one thing, he failed to obtain a permit for the fence, the city code enforcement office said. The fence also violates the ordinance because chain-link fences are prohibited in residential areas within 20 feet of the street and because the fence is within 5 feet of Mr. Johnson’s two neighbors’ driveways less than 20 feet from the street.

So Mr. Johnson went to get advice from Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham after the code enforcement office put him on notice.

“He knew it violated the ordinance and put it up anyway,” the mayor said, adding that he told Mr. Johnson there was “not much I could do.”

But Mr. Johnson insisted he improved the neighborhood by completing the project, which includes an in-ground pool with a waterfall, a spacious patio area, decorative stone and elaborate landscaping. It replaces a side yard hidden from the street by a row of overgrown bushes.

Mr. Johnson, who owns Jake’s Lawn Care, won’t divulge how much he spent on the project, saying only that “it was expensive.” He purchased the home last October with plans to remodel it and then “flip it,” he acknowledged. It is currently on the market.

Needing to conform with state safety regulations, Mr. Johnson said, he “had to put up the fence because of the pool.” He ordered the chain-link fence and other materials in June and went to inquire about the fence requirements with the city before starting to construct in August.

By then, it was too late. The fence was ordered and Alpine Fence, Route 3, Hounsfield, was ready to complete the job.

Mr. Johnson blamed the problem on an amendment that the Watertown City Council passed nearly two years ago that prohibits a fence less than 5 feet from a neighbor’s driveway when the fence is within 20 feet of the street. It was passed to appease a single Haley Street resident who complained that her neighbor installed a fence so close to her driveway that she could not safely back out of it.

Mr. Johnson called the amendment “illogical,” “irresponsible” and “irrational.”

And he said he intends to do whatever he can to keep the fence.

“I’m standing my ground,” he said, maintaining that the city is just giving him a hard time.

But Code Enforcement Supervisor Shawn R. McWayne said his office just followed what the City Council passed in 2011. His office had no choice but to enforce it, he said.

Mr. Johnson plans to go to the Oct. 7 council meeting to present his case. He also intends to seek a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Asked why he proceeded with the fence knowing it did not follow the ordinance, Mr. Johnson said, “I am just standing up for what’s right.”

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