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City in dispute with at least 25 property owners over walls, fences, right-of-way issues

<i>WLOS</i><br/>At least 25 property homeowners have been sent letters from the city of Asheville
WLOS
WLOS
At least 25 property homeowners have been sent letters from the city of Asheville

By Kimberly King

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Records show at least 25 Asheville homeowners have been warned to move encroaching fences and walls or face fines.

News 13 has learned at least 25 Asheville homeowners have been sent letters from the city of Asheville warning them to move their fences, cement walls and rock walls. The letters state the homeowners’ structures are on the city’s maintenance right-of-way. Some of the walls are decades old.

Through a public records request, News 13 confirmed 10 homeowners on Huffman Road, 14 homeowners on Indiana Avenue and at least one homeowner on Clayton Avenue in West Asheville received letters in December, demanding property owners address the issues within 30 days or face fines.

“I built the wall back in 1978,” said Chip Plemmons, who lives on Clayton Avenue.

He said, back then, Clayton Avenue was a one-lane dirt road.

“I replaced a row of hedges, and I took it for granted that was where my (property) line was,” Plemmons said. “I didn’t have a survey done.”

Plemmons originally bought the home and the property next-door to the house he lives in now. His son lives in that house, which has a wood fence along Clayton Avenue.

“The trash man took down my fence. But I never said nothing to them, the city,” Plemmons said.

His wife, Kim Plemmons, said someone from the city called them confirming that a city garbage truck had damaged the fence. The couple never asked the city to pay for a repair. But then, the couple said, the Dec. 15 letter came, ordering them to address the property’s encroachment.

“You have (30) days to remedy this violation,” the letter stated. “In order to remedy this violation, you must remove the structures from the public right-of-way.”

The letter went on to say if the wall wasn’t removed, the city will fine the Plemmonses $50 per day for the violation.

It’s the same warning letter Cory Reavis received in December after a city garbage truck driver caught his fence and yanked it out of the cement on Huffman Road.

Reavis contacted the city in April, when the city driver damaged his fence. He said he asked the city to reimburse him for the damage. Reavis who talked with News 13 in December, said a city staffer from the Risk Management Division came to see the damage.

Reavis said he was initially offered $60 for repairs and warned that if he pushed the issue by asking for a larger reimbursement, the city would send letters to him and residents on Huffman informing them that their property lines were encroaching on city right-of-way.

In December, warning letters went to 10 Huffman Road homeowners, including Reavis.

“No one from the city should be threatening anyone,” said Brad Branham, attorney for the city of Asheville.

Branham’s been talking and emailing with homeowner Reavis. He said he’s been providing documentation from deed research done on Reavis’ lot that show the right-of-way maintenance line behind his fence-line. Branham said a city survey done last November based on the property deeds and past surveys is accurate. He said city staff learn about property encroachments when incidents happen, and they’re brought to staff’s attention.

“We may not discover them until something happens, like obstructing a garbage truck or some other vehicle,” Branham said.

But Reavis is challenging the city’s survey and showed News 13 the survey he and his family had done on the property before they bought the house. That survey doesn’t show a maintenance right-of-way line but rather just a line representing the adjacent side of Huffman Road along Reavis’ property.

Branham said the surveyor hired by Reavis neglected to include the maintenance right-of-way line. Reavis plans to contact his surveyor and his closing attorney.

Byron Greiner, of Dwell Realty, said all homeowners who’ve received a warning letter like Reavis should ask the city to complete a land survey for each of their properties with all supporting evidence to show each homeowner the maintenance right of way the city is alleging goes into homeowners’ properties.

Greiner said land surveys are an important piece of information prospective buyers should invest in, especially if there are structures along a lot’s property line.

“A fence or a shed or a wall or a stone wall, if it looks like it’s on the property line, you should get a survey” Greiner said.

However, because of survey costs that can often run more than $1,000 and the time it can take to get a survey done, coupled with the tight real estate market, prospective buyers often move forward without getting one done, which leaves them open to risk.

In Reavis’ case, Greiner said he should contact the company that did his survey to determine which survey map is right.

Branham said the city will be able to offer some homeowners what’s called an encroachment agreement, where, if they sign the agreement acknowledging the right-of-way, the city will allow them to keep their fence or wall.

“Absolutely. And, in fact, we’ve offered that to the property owners,” Branham said.

A city spokeswoman confirmed four homeowners, so far, have expressed interest in the agreement. Branham said it’s a case-by-case situation. He said, in return for being allowed to keep their fence or wall, the homeowner will have to carry insurance should there be an accident on the slice of land that is city-owned but part of the owner’s encroachment agreement with the city.

Reavis said a city staffer told him he would need to carry a $1 million insurance policy should he sign an encroachment agreement with the city.

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