Ross Callahan learned the hard way, the very hard way, that building a fence requires the approval of a number of community entities. Callahan’s journey started in 2013 when he wanted to install a simple, attractive fence in his backyards to provide his dogs with the freedom to run and play. His neighbors had built similar fences over the years without asking permission, but Callahan and his wife didn’t feel right building an entire fence without the correct approvals.
So began a three year journey laced with frustration, disbelief, and many surprising developments. Back in the summer of 2013, Callahan asked the St. Paul’s department of safety and inspections for permission to build a dog fence, and was told he needed to obtain a property survey, mark his corners, and show the documents to the city. Unfortunately, that survey brought to surface a number of unpleasant realizations.
Not only did Callahan’s eaves hang over his neighbor’s property line, but an easement covered half his plot of land and extended so far into his back yard that it encompassed his entire living room. An easement is a slice of land dedicated to the public to accommodate things like utility lines. Behind the easement sat a park path that was allegedly being maintained by a homeowner’s association nobody had ever heard of, and which hadn’t been cared for in nearly a decade.
So began a stressful journey as Callahan attempted to receive written statements of approval from Xcel, Comcast, AT&T, CenturyLink, Consolidated Communications, St. Paul’s water department, and Level 3 Communications to allow Callahan to build his fence on the easement. The task proved impossible, and Callahan was left feeling disappointed and angry.
Callahan directed that anger toward doing something constructive; he rallied for the park path behind his home to finally be cleaned up, even donating his own time and money to make it a reality. He also had the help of an older neighbor who was able to uncover the mysterious homeowner’s association and prove that it actually held no authority over his property. Despite all of this, Callahan was never granted permission to build his backyard fence, only a front yard fence that looks beautiful but didn’t fulfill his original vision.
Callahan hopes that with time and enough persistence he will be able to stake a claim to the property in his backyard and finally build the fence of his dreams.