Board to hear fence dispute

Recommendation on structure's fate is set for tonight

Covenant exemption eyed

Family's neighbors question purpose

March 12, 2001|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Crofton may soon learn the fate of a lone front-yard fence among its look-alike homes that has flared tempers and set off a federal fair-housing investigation in the community.

Crofton Civic Association is meeting tonight and is expected to hear what action its Covenant Review Committee recommends for the fence.

The wooden picket fence ringing Beate Kanamine's yard has riled residents of The Willows, the cul-de-sac community where Kanamine lives with her husband and 5-year-old son, David Christopher. Kanamine said she built the fence to protect her hearing-impaired son from running into the street. Neighbors have contended her son is not disabled, and that the fence was built for aesthetic reasons.

During the past several months, the debate has spilled into public meetings of the CCA, which governs Crofton. The latest development occurred last week, when the association's Covenant Review Committee heard Kanamine's appeal for an exemption to the no-front-yard fence covenant.

Town manager Barbara Swann, who serves as an ex-officio member of the review committee, said the committee "came to no conclusions" after hearing Kanamine's appeal. Swann said new information surfaced during the hearing, though she wouldn't elaborate on what that was.

"The two attorneys will be doing some more talking," said Swann, referring to Kanamine's attorney, Harrison B. Wetherill Jr., and Fred Sussman, who represents the CCA. Late last week, Swann said the committee had not decided on its recommendation. But members expected to reach a consensus before the meeting today.

Other committee members declined to elaborate on what, if any, possible settlement talks are in the works. But the committee's willingness to revisit the issue marks a change from it and the CCA's past stance on the issue.

Kanamine ruffled feathers when she began construction on the fence before the CCA had ruled on her request for an exemption to the no-front-yard fence rule. Though she has said she knew the fence broke the rules, she thought she had permission to build it because of a clause in the covenants that says the review committee must respond within 60 days.

Committee members contend they did take action - they referred the matter to the CCA, which in turn denied her exemption request in September.

Sussman said he has taken one or two of the covenant violation cases to court in recent years. But the Kanamine case is different.

"The issue that complicates it is that there's a contention that the fence is a reasonable and necessary accommodation for a disability of someone living on the property," Sussman said.

The other factor setting Kanamine's case apart is that she has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging the covenants violate the Fair Housing Act.

Swann said she hasn't heard from HUD since the CCA filed a response to Kanamine's complaint in mid-January.

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