Urbana fence issue still under discussion

By Casey S. Elliott - [email protected]

A fence dispute between the Urbana City Schools and a Boyce Street neighbor may be solved with an easement after all.

Boyce Street property owner Robert Kiehn put up a fence on the district’s property right next to the driveway of the district’s administrative offices in Urbana. He built the fence to protect his children and property, but it was over the district’s property line.

Kiehn attempted to get an easement to keep the fence up from the district, but the school board declined at a February meeting. At the time, some board members said they did not approve of the fence being put up on their property, even after a survey showed where the actual property line was located.

But board members seemed more amenable to an easement discussion at its Tuesday meeting. Kiehn came to the board’s March meeting to make a plea for an easement, but did not get there in time to sign in for the public comment period. He spoke with Superintendent Charles Thiel after the meeting, asking if the board might be willing to consider an easement, and the board agreed to put the discussion on its April board meeting agenda.

“I apologize for my hastiness in putting it up,” Kiehn told the school board Tuesday. “I wasn’t intending to be rude to the board.”

Kiehn told the school board he was willing to move the fence closer to his property, but he wanted to keep it on district land because of the layout. There’s a line of trees on the property line, and a hill from there to the driveway. Kiehn said if he moved the fence onto the other side of the trees on his property, anyone walking by could easily see into his yard because of the hill. He wants to keep the fence on the hill to block some of that view.

Kiehn said he is willing to move the fence closer to the tree line, however. He had moved the posts once before at the request of the district, when the fence line was right next to the district’s driveway.

Several board members said they wanted Kiehn to work out an easement option with Thiel and bring it back to them for approval. Kiehn offered to pay for the legal fees.

Board member Alyssa Dunham, however, was opposed. She said she understands his concerns about safety and privacy, but feels he should have waited to put the fence up until he had this all worked out with the board.

“When the permit is given for the fence, we always tell people, you need to know where the property line is and either put it on the line or inside the line. It’s something you need to know before you undertake putting the fence up,” she said.

Dunham added she believed Kiehn was aware of the property line location and decided to put the fence up on school property anyway. The school district had a survey done recently as part of the school building project. Surveyors put up boundaries on the property lines when they were doing the survey.

A neighboring property also has a fence that has been there over the property on the district’s property for years, but Dunham said it’s different if it’s something that has been there before anyone realized where the line was located, versus right after a survey is done that shows the line.

Kiehn had been required to move or remove the fence by the city of Urbana zoning office. That enforcement has been halted until Kiehn and the school district can come to some arrangement about an easement, Urbana Community Development Manager Doug Crabill said. But if they cannot come to an agreement, the enforcement order will stand, with the enforcement date reverting back to that April 15, 2017 date.

By Casey S. Elliott

[email protected]

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.