Illegal Fence Disagreement

by Jen m
(Connecticut)

Visitor Question:I purchased a single family home last year with one acre. The home borders 13 acres of open fields that went with the house before the owner passed away and the land was divided.

My lot is long in front and the back property line and left side property line are about 40 feet from the house.

The new landowner would like to farm the fields, and installed 8' deer fencing along the side and back of my home. He put the fencing right on the property line. Zoning rules in our city state you must apply for a permit for any fence over 6' and and any fence over 6' must be set back 30' from property line. He never filed for a permit.

I spoke to the landowner and pointed out the zoning laws and asked if he would move the side fence back 30' and that I would not dispute the back fence if he agreed. I just wanted a less boxed in feeling than the fence was giving me.

He refused and stated if I filed any type of complaint he would install a 6' stockade fence all around so I had no view of the farmland.

I insisted he push back the side 30' or I would file with planning and zoning. He moved the side 30' off property line and the 8' fence in back remains on the line.

Yesterday I saw a delivery of stockade fence arrive to his property. Concerned, I went to p&z to see if they would attempt to contact him with his intentions. They told me he applied for a variance for the 8' fence.

Editors Respond These are all very common circumstances. Especially with fences, outbuildings, decks, driveways, and such, property owners may not think they need a permit.

But of course law-abiding and civic-spirited property owners will correct the situation when it is called to their attention. So it is not unusual for a government to advise a complaining property owner to apply for a variance if they do not want to remove the unpermitted and illegally sized addition to their property.

Just because he applies for a variance does not mean he will obtain one. Read our zoning variance page to learn how a zoning board of appeals (called various things around the country) should comply with the zoning ordinance by granting variances only in cases of unique hardship due to properties of the land parcel. In this case, there is no hardship except what the property owner wants to do. A variance should not be granted, unless there are facts that we don't know.

You should be able to appear and testify before your zoning board of appeals. Ask your planning and zoning staff about this.

It sounds as if the adjoining property owner is just being vengeful about the situation, since a stockade fence is a considerable expense. Our site visitor who asked this question seems very reasonable, and did the right thing by attempting a direct conversation with her neighbor.

Sometimes in spite of that, people are offended and want to take revenge when their wishes are thwarted. There is not much to be done about the emotional aspect of this except to attempt to maintain some civil communication when possible. Sometimes the passage of time will heal the wound, and sometimes not.

Your best hope is to attempt politely to fight the variance. You can read the zoning ordinance yourself to see what it says about the criteria for granting of a variance.


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