Fence fight brings up safety, medical concerns

Posted at 8:04 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 20:04:10-05

It's an unusual fight pitting a resident against city hall in one Cleveland suburb. It centers on a fence, arguments made, and a man who's standing firm in his beliefs.

The fence is on Fitch Road in North Olmsted. The guy who owns the house, Caleb Zimmerman, told us he got permission for a mound that he built, but the city said the fence on top of the mound is too high and it doesn't meet code. However, Zimmerman told us there are many reasons for his particular design.

"It kind of veers off and comes three feet into my property," said Zimmerman while showing us video of a car coming onto his property. He also said three cars recently have come into his front yard.

He designed the fence on top of the mound and built some of it not knowing he needed a permit. "I've seen other fences in the neighborhood, so I thought okay to go ahead with one,” said Zimmerman.

The city told Zimmerman the fence has to go. He appealed. The first hearing was denied.

For the second hearing he gathered neighbors' signatures and even got a doctor to write a letter saying a medical condition would be helped by a fence or similar project.

"An anxiety...fear of the cars coming in the yard, in the house…with the noise associated with that,” Zimmerman said.

The city said the specifics of anxiety were not presented in either hearing.

"You've indicated there might be some anxiety issue, and I'm hearing about that the first time here,” commented Michael Gareau, Jr. He’s North Olmsted's Director of Law. He told us Zimmerman not getting a permit was a big mistake and there's only a 30-inch fence height limit. Plus, Zimmerman’s first design included more boards and resembled a wall, according to Gareau.

What about the signatures Zimmerman collected from neighbors?

“I don't really know what they were provided,” said Gareau.  “I don't know what information they were given."

Gareau thinks different landscaping could address the issue. He told us his door is open and he's willing to listen to new information on the case…more on the anxiety issue, for example.

Zimmerman said he feels his concerns were not taken seriously. "My hope is that maybe they'll reconsider."