Commissioners uphold Planning Dept. ruling in fence dispute

Dylan Lightfoot Staff Writer

October 14, 2013

The Ashe County Board of Commissioners Monday upheld a Planning Department ruling in a land dispute over a fence on the New River floodplain.

Director of Planning Adam Stumb said his office had received a complaint in May from Christine Cutter, owner of a parcel on the New River, against her neighbor, Emanuel Calais, who built a fence on the floodplain.

Testifying before the board in a quasi-judicial hearing Monday, Cutter said she sold Calais a portion of land downriver from hers for river access, and that he signed an agreement “that he would not build anything on that land at all.”

Calais later put up a wooden and woven-wire fence from Railroad Grade Road to the river, posting it with “No Trespassing” signs, she said.

Consulting with Ashe County Emergency Coordinator Patty Gambill, Cutter was told the fence was not allowed under Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations.

Cutter presented Calais with a cease and desist order while he was constructing the fence. Calais threw the document back at her, saying “nobody’s going to tell me what I can do or not do with my land,” she said.

“Why is he being so territorial?” she said.

Cutter, a member the National Committee for the New River who participates in river clean-up efforts, argued that flood debris will be trapped on her side of the fence.

“My property is going to become a dump site,” she said.

Upon receiving Cutter’s complaint, Stumb said he “followed through with enforcement action based on our county’s flood control ordinance.”

“There’s a prohibition on anything being constructed in the flood way…essentially to allow flood waters…to come back down once the rains have come,” he said. “We sent out a notice of violation for the fence.”

After sending the notice, Stumb discussed possible options with Calais, and looked into FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program manual to find any exception for the fence.

“The only thing we found was the allowance for a barbed-wired fence… for agricultural purposes,” he said.

Calais in August requested an appeal of Stumb’s decision by the Board of Commissioners.

The board unanimously denied Calais’ appeal Monday, upholding Stumb’s decision that the portion of fence in the floodplain must be removed.

Calais did not appear at the hearing.