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Barbed-wire fence proves thorny in Afton

Afton neighbors have found themselves on opposite sides of the fence.

During its June 17 meeting Afton City Council heard comments from two Afton residents related to a neighborhood dispute over a barbed wire fence.

Afton residents Julie Reardon and Bill Hackala, who both live on Penfield Court, both spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting where they told City Council that one of their neighbors has erected a barbed wire fence around the entirety of the property.

The fence includes 6-foot tall posts in addition to five strands of wire, Hackala said.

“It’s an ugly and threatening interruption,” he said.

Currently, the city’s fencing code does not identify appropriate materials, nor does it prohibit barbed wire in residential neighborhoods.

Reardon and Hackala said they are concerned over the fence because it is dangerous for the young children and domestic pets who live in the neighborhood.

Reardon and Hackala said they attempted to discuss their concerns with their neighbor, who erected the fence as a safeguard against wildlife entering her garden, but a compromise could not be reached, which is why they decided to approach the city with their concerns.

City Council Member Bill Palmquist, who was initially approached about the issue, said he thought City Council should take a look at the city’s fencing ordinance given that there are no specific prohibitions against barbed wire in residential neighborhoods, which could prove dangerous.

“I think we could address this without being too prohibitive,” he said.

Palmquist suggested that Afton Planning Commission review the fencing ordinance in an attempt to clarify and provide stronger regulations.

Even if the ordinance is amended, however, it would not affect the current issue on Penfield Court since it would be grandfathered in and the ordinance could not be applied retroactively, City Attorney Fritz Knaak said.

City Council isn’t completely without options though, Knaak said, since city governments have quite a lot of authority in regards to fencing in state statute.

“You are in fact the entity responsible for determining what fence is appropriate,” he said. “It’s not whether or not a fence can be built, but what kind of fence should be built.”

City Council asked Knaak to draft a memorandum of what exactly their authority is in regards to fencing and bring it to next month’s meeting after which time City Council will make a determination of how to proceed with the specific issue on Penfield Court and how to proceed with the ordinance in general.

“Good fences make good neighbors and bad fences make bad neighbors,” Mayor Dick Bend said. “I’m aware of the need for good fences in certain circumstances and there’s plenty of alternatives out there.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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