A fence placement dispute between the Urbana City Schools and a neighboring property owner may take a little longer to resolve.
Property owner Robert Kiehn lives next to the school district’s offices on the corner of Wood and Boyce streets in Urbana. He built a fence to protect his property and children, but it crossed the property line onto the district’s property.
Kiehn attempted to work something out with the district but was unsuccessful. He said he waited to hear back from the district after an initial discussion with Superintendent Charles Thiel and heard nothing.
The school board discussed a proposed property easement at its February board meeting and declined to do an easement.
Kiehn has been ordered by the city of Urbana to move the fence back onto his property, and Kiehn said he will do so. He requested an extension to move the fence from the city last week, and it was granted, Urbana Community Development Manager Doug Crabill said.
Kiehn must now move the fence back onto his property by April 15, Crabill said.
Property line location verified by survey
The district learned its property line was not where it was supposed to be when a survey was done recently for the construction of the new high school. An existing fence on a neighboring property is also on school district property, and Kiehn said he was just attempting to align his fence with that one.
Thiel said the district surveyed the property six or seven years ago when looking into trimming some trees and discovered the fence two houses to the east of Kiehn’s property was on the school district’s property. Since it was an existing condition, Thiel said he decided not to make an issue of it at the time.
Kiehn began constructing his fence in June, when the property line issue was discovered. He ceased construction of the final portion until an agreement could be made with the district.
Kiehn said a line of mature trees is on the property line and he didn’t want to remove the trees when putting up the fence. He proposed moving his fence to the school district’s property and enclose those trees in his yard, saying he would take care of the lawn maintenance on both sides of the fence. He also offered an easement to make it official and said he would pay the legal fees regarding the easement.
Thiel said he told Kiehn last summer he wanted to propose to the board purchase of land on his property and the two properties to the east. And since Kiehn wanted to finish his fence, Thiel said he suggested he put it on his property until the property transfer details could be worked out.
Kiehn said he did not hear from anybody at the school district for months, so constructed the rest of the fence since he had items stolen from his property. He said his children were also being harassed while playing in the back yard.
When Kiehn received notice from the city that he needed to move the fence, he contacted the school board about the easement.
It was that premature construction that bothered the board.
“I think the board feels that there was a lack of communication from him prior to placing his fence on the district property,” Thiel said. “(Kiehn) was informed of the location of the property line and yet disregarded it.”
Board members noted at its February meeting the surveyors marked the property lines for everyone to see, so there is nothing unclear about those boundaries.
Kiehn said he does not agree with the board members’ opinion. He said while the property line may have been marked with string, it was removed before he saw it.
“It seems like their decision was spiteful toward me,” he said, noting there are still a couple of feet between the school parking lot and the fence, and there’s a lot of room between the parking spaces and the curb for the parking lot.
“It just seems like (the board’s) reasons for denying it are a little unfounded, in my opinion,” he added.
With the school board’s decision to decline the easement, Kiehn said he would move the fence to the other side of the trees on his property.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.