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Mayor Graham insists Mullin Street fence owner pay fines until he tears it down


Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham insisted Tuesday night that a Mullin Street resident should be made to pay a daily fine until the property owner removes the fence he installed last summer when he knew it violated city code.

At Tuesday’s Watertown City Council meeting, the mayor said he would like to put financial pressure on Jacob S. Johnson by citing him on a daily basis for the chain-link fence on his property at 261 Mullin St. until he complies with the law.

Mr. Johnson has vowed he will not take down the fence without a fight. On Jan. 24, the city filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court to compel him to remove or relocate it.

“I think we should look at it as a code violation instead of going to state Supreme Court,” Mr. Graham said afterward, adding it would save the city the time and money of litigating the matter at the state level.

The city, instead, could keep citing Mr. Johnson for the fence until it is removed, the mayor said. It was unclear Tuesday night how much in fines Mr. Johnson would face if he were cited for the violation daily.

But City Attorney Robert J. Slye reminded the mayor that City Manager Sharon A. Addison and the Code Enforcement Office agreed that the city should pursue the matter in state court because a Supreme Court judge would order the homeowner to remove the fence.

“Our goal is to get him to comply,” Mr. Slye said.

He pointed out that Mr. Johnson has thumbed his nose at both the Code Enforcement Office and the Zoning Board of Appeals when they rejected his requests to keep the fence up.

Contacted Tuesday night, Mr. Johnson said the matter should remain in state Supreme Court, where it would be argued legally.

Mr. Johnson has acknowledged that he built the fence after being told by the Code Enforcement Office that he would be violating city code. According to the code office, Mr. Johnson failed to obtain a permit for the project. 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.

During Tuesday night’s discussion, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns also wanted to know about the status of Mr. Johnson’s neighbor, who also has a fence in violation of the ordinance.

Merrill A. Peters, a 73-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran, said he did not know the chain-link fence was in violation when a Hounsfield fence company installed it at his Mullin Street home last summer.

The owner of Alpine Fence Co. has agreed to relocate the fence this spring to comply with the code, Mr. Slye said.

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