Twelve inches or 12 feet, the line is the line

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:23

MILFORD - Whether it was an illegal intrusion on public property or a harmless and attractive fence, it’s gone. After three years of haggling, borough workers took down the fence at 109 East Ann Street on Wednesday morning and both sides continue to claim the wrongdoing rested with the other party. The fence, all sides agree, was mistakenly erected, encroaching about one foot over the property line into the borough right of way. That’s where the agreement ends. Joseph Biondo Sr. had the 120-foot, $5,500 fence built. “The enhancement people came to me saying picket fences could add to and help improve the appearance of the town. I said great.” The problem arose after Lynn “Cookie” Astringer purchased one of the homes behind the fence. She incurred a zoning violation during repairs on the house, had a survey done to settle a setback issue and coincidentally verified the fence encroachment. A series of violations and negotiations followed, without a satisfactory result. Astringer says she signed away all interest in the fence in 2004, in hopes that the borough’s taking ownership would lead to a settlement. In September of the next year, the borough agreed to pay to relocate the fence. Biondo and Astringer say they reneged on that agreement. Borough President Matthew Osterberg says that Biondo refused the agreement, calling for an easement similar to one that granted Alan Blumenson at 207 East Ann. Blumenson has an older fence that also encroaches and he says he was still willing to go along, as long as the borough replaced any shrubs they killed in moving the fence. Biondo denies that he rejected the deal and insists that the village reneged on moving the fence and then removed it when they took ownership, although the fence did not interfere with any public use. Osterberg insisted the borough, which no longer issues fence easements, could not set a precedent by allowing the encroachment. “It wouldn’t matter if it’s 12 inches or 12 feet. People would have been building any way they pleased.” He reeled off five homeowners who have voluntarily moved fences after learning they had encroachment problems. “This has been very frustrating.” Looking at the space where her fence once stood, Astringer said she felt vulnerable without it. “I can still see it there,” she said.