By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Fence not a black and white issue for Mt. Oliver Council


Last updated 11/5/2020 at 4:27pm

The old proverb stating "Good fences make good neighbors" was put to the test at the October meeting of the Mt. Oliver Borough Council when Jeff Friday complained about getting a violation letter for putting up a "little black fence" to keep the leaves out of his yard.

Mr. Friday said the fence was there for years, but he only got the letter after he complained about his neighbor's little white fence.

"I've been putting that fence up every fall for three years," he said. "Never heard a complaint about it."

He said he asked Borough Manager Rick Hopkinson to have the neighbor's little white fence taken down and, "then what do I get from (Mr. Hopkinson), I have to remove my fence." The letter said a permit would be needed for the fence or it would have to be taken down within 30 days.

Mr. Friday said he put the fence up to keep the leaves out of his yard that were coming from the borough's trees on the other end of the block. He's been cleaning up the leaves from the whole block for years.

He didn't feel he should have to remove the little black fence because in 2001 when he bought his house, he got a Special Exception to put up a fence on the side of the house. Mr. Friday felt the 2001 Special Exception should include the new fence in the front yard.

He said he was charged $200 for the Special Exception and another $40 for a Building Permit to put up a fence he was entitled to have and the Borough never refunded his money.

Mr. Friday said he was going to be charged another $75 to be able to keep the little black fence up and he didn't feel he should have to pay it.

"I told (Mr. Hopkinson), if you're going to ask for the $75, take it out of the $200 you guys stole from me to begin with."

Mr. Hopkinson said he has been unable to verify whether or not Mr. Friday received a refund of his money 20 years ago. He said if there was a refund due, it should have been taken care at the time.

Mr. Hopkinson explained he sent Mr. Friday the violation notice for the fence after Mr. Friday complained about his neighbor's fence and they then complained about his fence.

Council President Amber McGough asked if there was anything in the Borough Code that would "grandfather" in the fence since it has been up for three years.

Mr. Hopkinson said there wasn't anything in the code that would grandfather the fence.

"It sounds to me like you're having an issue with your neighbor," Councilman Aaron Graham said. "It sounds like you're here to litigate your issue with your neighbor. That's not the borough's business. The borough doesn't litigate neighbor disputes"

He added the fence wasn't noticed in the past and only became an issue when Mr. Friday complained about his neighbor's fence and they in turn complained about his. At that point, he was obligated to send the violation notice.

Mr. Friday said his fence should be considered just an extension of the existing fence and he should be able to leave it up.

Councilman Nick Viglione said if they leave his fence up without a permit, they would have to leave his neighbor's fence up also.

"We need to treat all residents the same and follow our ordinances and the code," Ms. McGough said.

She added that Mr. Hopkinson is following process by notifying both neighbors to either pay for the permit or take down the fences.


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