City sets rules on what to do if fence gets in way of repair work

May 10, 2010

Property owners who put up a fence too close to their neighbor's garage may be forced to temporarily take down a portion of the fence to accommodate building repairs.

The Wauwatosa Common Council last week approved changing the city ordinance to spell out the responsibilities of neighbors in such a scenario, one that has happened a handful of times over the years, city staff said.

If a structure - likely a garage or shed - can't be reached to do maintenance like tuck-pointing or painting, it might fall into disrepair and violate the city's building maintenance code.

The solution will be for building inspectors to require the owner of a property adjacent to a building in need of repairs to remove enough sections of the fence so that the work can be done.

The city has already been using this method of enforcement in practice, so adding it to an ordinance may "give a little more notice to the public that this is what's going to happen if you build a fence too close," City Attorney Alan Kesner said.

Penalties for not complying with city orders could start at $150 per day, up to a maximum of $1,000 per day, with additional reinspection fees of $75.

The approved changes proved different then a draft discussed by the Community Development Committee in prior weeks. That document would have required property owners to get a permit to erect a fence less than 30 inches from a neighbor's structure unless that neighbor was allowed a permanent easement to access their land for maintenance purposes.

City officials worried about residents having to give up a portion of their property to provide an easement as well as land ownership legalities.

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