by Trish Dyer
If you own a home at the edge of a subdivision or plan to, you might want to consider the ongoing experiences of 81 homeowners in Carleton Place.These owners are facing a large bill to replace a fence they didn't know they owned.
Some twenty years ago, G.M. Homes, a (then) local builder approached the town with plans to build a subdivision parallel to, and east of, McNeely Avenue. And, after extensive negotiation, two major documents were signed. The first, a plan of subdivision, granted the builder permission to divvy up then vacant land into a finite number of duly registered, individual properties. The second, a complex document known as a site plan agreement specified precisely where houses- predominately townhouses in this case – could be constructed along what became Crampton Drive.
All homes backing onto McNeely and Lake Avenues or bordering on (fledging) Peckett Drive, would have double fences. An inside fence defining their backyards on three sides would be surrounded by a second, continuous six foot high fence closer to the road, creating a grassy alley or easement along the ‘back’ of their backyards.
As properties backing onto McNeely and Lake were sold and resold, purchasers- apparently unknowingly- assumed legal responsibility for maintaining their section of the outer or common fence.
On April 28th high winds took down a section of the aging fence at the foot of a backyard near the Waterside.
“There are sections which are still up, sections down and sections on their way down. They have to be replaced,” town spokesman and property standards officer Les Reynolds said recently.
Town planners who have held two (poorly attended) information meetings for residents have consulted fencing contractors at the request of a handful of homeowners. Quotes from the only three contractors interested have quoted similar prices. They range from $1300-1700 per household depending on the length of fence involved.
The town has offered to have the fence replaced and add the costs to individual property bills amortized over several years. But they are only prepared to do so if 2/3 of property owners agree.
A survey, to be returned to town hall by Friday, has elicited responses from less than half the 81 households involved. And respondents are nearly evenly split between taking responsibility for their own portion of the fence or hiring a single contractor to replace the entire fence.
Town planners will report to council next week.
Town officials have the right to insist substandard fencing be replaced on any property. If a property owner refuses, the town has the right to have the fence replaced at the owner’s expense under existing property standards legislation.