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Controversial Watertown fence comes down

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WATERTOWN — Fencegate is over.

Workers tore down the controversial 4-foot-tall chain-link fence Monday morning in Jacob S. Johnson’s yard and are replacing it with another fence of the same height and color at his home at 261 Mullin St.

On May 15, state Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky gave Mr. Johnson 30 days to remove the chain-link fence that violated the city’s fence ordinance. The new ornamental aluminum fence was expected to be installed by Monday night.

Mr. Johnson said the new fence is almost exactly the same as the old one, except the material. It looks just like the old one.

“A lot of time, energy and money spent and I’m trying to figure out why,” he said.

He declined to say how much it was costing him to pay the Alpine Fence Co. to install the new fence, but he said he was just complying with what the city wanted.

In January, the city filed suit against Mr. Johnson, seeking an order compelling him to take down or move the fence to comply with the code. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals rejected requests by Mr. Johnson to keep the fence up.

He has acknowledged that he built the fence after being told by the Code Enforcement Office that he would be violating city code. The city maintained that 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.

In an oral ruling issued from the bench, Judge McClusky found that the city had properly enacted the regulation and that it had the authority to enforce it against Mr. Johnson.

In responding to his comments, Code Enforcement Officer Carolyn F. Meunier said that the city tried to work with Mr. Johnson to avoid the issue with the fence.

“We try to inform anyone of all the codes pertaining to their project,” she said.

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