If a good fence makes good neighbors... what does this fence make?

John Christensen
A portion of the fence which is approximately 300 ft. long.

Keuka Park resident Matthew Piczak has been angry everyday for over two years now, and many would agree he has good reason to be. On July 11, 2010, he returned from work to the house he has called home since 1996 to find an 8 foot tall fence made of scrap plywood beside his front yard, and much of it on his own property.

After a dispute over boundaries and paying for a second survey, he succeeded in getting the fence moved to the very edge of the line, but since that time, the neighbor who built it has been adding a variety of materials to the fence, and building animosity in their relationship.

Piczak has pleaded with the Town of Jerusalem to take action, but with no local law regulating construction of fences, Supervisor Daryl Jones and Code Enforcement Officer John Phillips say they are powerless to intervene.

Jerusalem Board Member Patrick Killen has been drafting a new law with a committee, but the intricacies take time. Piczak returned to the town board at last week's meeting to report that the neighbor has now added old tires to the fence.

In addition to the plywood installed with what laws define as the least attractive side facing Piczak's house, the fence now extends on two sides of his property. The fence is made of a crooked jumble of snow fence, barbed wire festooned with rags, black tarpaulins, rusted corrugated sheet metal, all held up by a combination of wooden and metal posts and stakes of all description. Now, old tires have been added to the collection.

Piczak states that the dispute began when the neighbor accused Piczak's dogs of attacking a blue heron at her pond near the property boundary. His dogs are contained by an invisible fence, but Piczak admits his dogs did run up to the edge of the invisible fence and barked at the heron, causing it to fly away.

He maintains that the dispute grew because of his father's unwillingness to assist the neighbor in a lawsuit, and the fence has grown with the dispute.

Piczak also believes that because of the fence's height and location, the only way the neighbor has been able to add to or repair the fence when parts fall off is to trespass on his property while he is at work.

Piczak has grown so frustrated with the situation that he wants to sell his property, but feels he cannot do so for what it is worth while it is surrounded on two sides by such a fence.

There have been a series of court cases associated with it. The latest against the fence owner has been transferred to several towns because of conflicts with the resident justices.

In response to their attempts to solve the dispute, Jones and Phillips have both been forbidden by the fence owner to come on her property.

The fence owner did not attend the town board meeting, and attempts by The Chronicle-Express to contact her by phone for a comment or explanation were unsuccessful.

Questions for the neighbor include: The Town of Jerusalem has seen a need to enact a fence law prompted by your fence. How do you feel about that?

What would have to change in order for you to consider removing the fence?