Good fences don’t always make good neighbors in this dispute

  • Published in Local News

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A neighbor in the house on the right built a fence that has upset his neighbor in the house on the left. A city board tried to sort out the dispute Monday night. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Faced with a neighborhood dispute, the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday night split the baby, or in this case, the fence.

The board required Gordon D. Sanborn to shorten the height of part of a wooden fence obstructing the view of his next-door neighbor, Virginia Edwards, as she looks for traffic when leaving her driveway.

Around Labor Day, Sanborn, of 12 Charles St., went to Boulia-Gorrell Lumber Co. and bought No. 1 grade pressure-treated wood. He dug 2-foot holes for the 4-by-4 posts, anchored them in quick-drying concrete, put on 2-by-4 rails and attached pointy planks.

When he was done, he was proud of his 6-foot fence. It would give him privacy and prevent snow and rocks from flying his way when his neighbor uses a snowblower.

“It's nice quality,” he said. “The pretty side faces her house.”

Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors,” but in this case, the neighbor didn't like the fence.

Virginia Edwards, of 8 Charles St., complained to the city. A code enforcement officer determined the fence was a couple feet too tall. Such front-yard fences are supposed to be only 4 feet.

Sanborn cut the section closest to the street to 4 feet, and then applied for a variance allowing the rest of the fence to stay at 6 feet.

The board granted the request Monday night on condition he take another foot off the front section, dropping it to 3 feet, so Edwards can see above it as she noses her car onto the street.

Neither party was completely satisfied.

“I would have preferred to have that first section removed,” Edwards said. “I'm totally blind when I pull onto the street. If that front piece could have been removed, that would have made my day.

“I'm all of 5-foot 1-inch tall. I'm totally blind when I pull onto the street. I have to cross my fingers and hope for the best. It's an accident waiting to happen.”

For his part, Sanborn thinks he's done enough by creating a 4-foot section closest to the street.

“The ordinance says only 4 feet, and she can get out,” he said.

He said there was a fence in that location before he bought the property in 2014, but the previous owner took that fence with him.

Sanborn also noted there are various spots around town where fences run along driveways, including at a nearby tavern.

“You've got to creep out,” he said. “There are all kinds of blind spots.”

Sanborn said he may appeal the board's ruling.

He is on a pension after 26 years of service in the U.S. Navy, and the fence amounted to a significant investment for him.

His military service included time in Greece.

“Over there, they have 20- to 30-foot concrete walls with broken glass over the top,” he said.

He said the dispute has become personal.

During the zoning board meeting, he accused Edwards of using a particular foul word against his granddaughter. Edwards shouted out a denial.

Commissioner Suzanne Perley, who was running the meeting, had to appeal for calm.