Watertown Files Lawsuit Over Controversial Fence

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The city of Watertown has made good on its promise - it has filed a lawsuit against Jacob Johnson, the owner of a controversial chain-link fence.

The suit was filed Thursday in state Supreme Court.

The city wants a judge to order Johnson to remove and relocate the fence to conform with city codes.

Johnson, owner of Jacobs Landscaping and Lawn Care, is refusing to tear down the fence at his home on Mullin Street, even after city council rejected his request to keep it.

Johnson put up the fence in August knowing it violated city codes.

"I had to put a fence up for the pool," Johnson said in September. "Knowing that, I did what looked best aesthetically, what went with the property, what worked for my neighbors, friends and family,"

He has vowed to keep the fence because he says the current ordinance outlawing it isn't fair.

Johnson said Thursday he learned the lawsuit had been filed from the news media.

"I feel that some of the local ordinances are unconstitutional and violate residents' property rights," he said in a phone interview.  "I feel like this is a waste of taxpayer money, time along with city civil servant time."

Johnson also said the city offers no incentive to keep young business people in Watertown and has shown no sign of appreciation for the work he has done in the community.

The city's Code Enforcement Bureau said Johnson violated the law because he did not file for a permit, the fence was too close to the sidewalk, and the fence is not at least 5 feet away from his neighbor's driveway.

According to lawsuit documents, Johnson told the codes department he'd rather die than properly install the fence.

"This is not about an individual, this is not about setting an example, this is about compliance," said city manager Sharon Addison.

"It was enacted, I believe, because there was an issue with a fence put up so close to a driveway," city council member Steve Jennings said. "The person couldn't see to get out of the driveway and that's an issue."

See our original report
 

Saturday, October 25, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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