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Disabled vet won’t have to pay for Mullin Street fence repairs

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The 73-year-old Vietnam veteran won’t have to worry about paying to make his chain-link fence on Mullin Street follow the city’s rigid fence ordinance.

On Wednesday, Merrill A. Peters found out that Alpine Fence Co. will fix the 4-foot-tall fence at his 273 Mullin St. home — free of charge — so it no longer violates the fence ordinance.

Mr. Peters, a disabled Vietnam veteran who suffers from high blood pressure, breathing problems and other ailments, was told last week by the city’s code enforcement office that the fence he had installed early last spring was in violation of city code and had to be changed. Code enforcement officials blamed the fence company for installing it that way.

“They’re going to make it legal,” Mr. Peters said Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, James B. Taylor, an employee of the fence company, met with Mr. Peters for about 90 minutes at his house to take a look at what can be done to correct the situation. The changes will be made this spring, Mr. Taylor said.

“Absolutely, it will be at no cost to Mr. Peters,” he said.

Mr. Peters had the fence erected so he didn’t have to walk his year-old dog, Buddy. He could just open up his back door and let the dog go outside, Mr. Peters said.

The problem with the fence came to light after a neighbor’s fence became a recent controversy. His neighbor Jacob S. Johnson installed a fence as part of an extensive landscaping project this summer while knowing beforehand that it would violate the ordinance.

The Watertown City Council and the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals denied his plea to keep his chain-link fence in his yard at 261 Mullin St. because he knowingly disobeyed the law.

City officials have been adamant that they cannot allow Mr. Johnson to keep his fence because it would set a precedent.

Both fences violate the law because chain-link fences are prohibited in residential areas within 20 feet of the street.

Mr. Peters said he did not know his fence violated city code before it was erected. He submitted a fence permit application March 5, before he had Alpine Fence Co. install it for him.

But he failed to build the fence according to the plans he submitted in the permit.

City officials have defended their December 2011 decision that amended the fence ordinance to prohibit chain-link fences in front yards, mainly for safety reasons. Council members also have said chain-link fences are not aesthetically pleasing. Any fence erected before the ordinance was amended is grandfathered in and can remain.

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