The pink flag on the ground shows the edge of Huber’s property with the electric fence being just over a hands length away
The tree line on the left is the edge of the Huber property and the electric fence on the right is no more than six inches away.
SPRINGVILLE—As with any move, Melissa Huber and her family experienced some worries when they moved into their Forest Avenue home five years ago. What they weren’t worried about was getting shocked by an electric fence. Now, that is one of Huber’s main concerns.
Huber’s Main Street neighbor has a nine-acre lot, that stretches behind the homes on Forest Avenue, surrounded by an electric fence. The fence is there to keep the longhorn steer and horses inside the property. But Huber sees it as a dangerous situation for her kids and their friends who often gather in her backyard.
“All the neighbor’s kids meet in my yard,” she said. “What am I supposed to do, put up a ‘warning electric fence’ sign in my yard?”
The electric fence sits just six inches off Huber’s property, leaving her little room to put up a fence of her own. Bordering the fence, on Huber’s side, is a line of trees and a treehouse-fort her kids often play in, and on the front of the property it borders village sidewalks. Huber’s concern is one of her kids, or their friends, will be in the treehouse and fall onto the fence, or one of the trees will come down in a storm and damage the fence, allowing the animals to get out.
The current village code regarding fences does not have language specifying what kind of fences are allowed, only that they cannot exceed four feet in the front and six on the side or back. The current code also says that fences cannot interfere with “the maintenance, construction or reconstruction within the public right-of-way.”
Huber would like to see the code change to disallow or modify the use of electric fences in the village. She presented a petition-type document to the Village Board of Trustees on July 14 that was signed by residents of Forest Avenue. The document states “We are requesting a change in zoning ordinance and code to be put in place to disallow and or modify electrical fencing in the Village of Springville, Town of Concord.” The document requests that electric fences be “a minimum of 10 ft from adjoining lots only if it stands inside an existing regular fence, is in an area zoned ‘agricultural’, and is marked by warning signs every 4 feet.”
Huber initially filed a complaint with Michael Kaleta, the village’s code enforcement officer, on June 8 of this year. She was asked to file a formal complaint in written form and did so. At the July 14 village board meeting, Huber publicly made her complaint to the board.
According to Huber, she was told at the board meeting, by Kaleta, that the fence, which is a year old, has permits. She requested, on July 15, to receive those documents in a Freedom of Information Law request. She has also put in a request to see the documentation that allows the Main Street property to house animals, as it is in a residential district. Kaleta, however, later told the Springville Journal he was unsure of how long the fence has been there and there is a possibility there are no permits if it were erected before permits were required for fences.
According to village attorney Johanna Healy, the property on Main Street is protected under non-conforming use to house the animals. Non-conforming use, Healy said, allows any legal use occurring on the property to be passed onto the next owner, regardless of a change in zoning laws, so long as the use on the property has not be abandoned. The previous owner of the Main Street property, Emma Watson, housed animals on her property before her death in 1984. However, according to Huber, the last animal died more than two years before the current animals were brought in.
In 2005, Huber’s neighbor Brenda Shepard was taken to court by the village of Springville because it was said the animals she housed on her property were in violation of village code. In a June 4, 2013 written statement to Kaleta, Shepard says “Your sworn testimony was that only he (original owner) could keep and maintain his horses, and no other or new occupant would be permitted to maintain additional farm animals.”
Both Shepard and Huber feel there is an exception being made in the case of the Main Street property.
“[The village] took it to the extreme and they enforce the codes,” Shepard said of her court case. “And that’s fine, that’s great. But what’s good for me has to be good for them.”
Healy wouldn’t speak on Shepard’s court hearing, as she was not the attorney at the time, but did say they two are separate issues.
As for Huber’s fence trouble, Springville Mayor William Krebs said the village has already begun looking into updating the code but it will not happen overnight.
“When we received the complaint Monday night we said we’d look into it,” Krebs said. “And we are. We’re doing our due diligence. We told her we’d look into the local law and that’s what we’re going to do.”