Lawsuit follows as City Council sides with Subaru on fence dispute

AP

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University Subaru is free to go forward on its plan to build a new fence approximately 10 feet south of its previous location after the Columbia City Council approved a change to its landscaping and screening plan Tuesday night.

The proposed fence is intended to replace one that was removed by the dealership in July. University Subaru attorney Robert Hollis told the council that the fence was in disrepair. Once the fence came down, he said, city officials said the dealership would be out of compliance with city code unless it placed a new fence at the actual property line.

Subaru's Planned Fence

Neighbors of University Subaru who live on London Drive argued that the area on their side of the previous fence had essentially become their property because they maintained it as part of their backyards for years. Two of those neighbors, Jeremy and Jade Govero, filed a lawsuit in Boone County Circuit Court claiming adverse property rights.

The council, however, voted unanimously to approve the location of the new fence after City Counselor Nancy Thompson drafted an ordinance amendment ensuring the council’s decision would not constitute an official city opinion on ownership of the property. That would be left for the court to decide.

Depositions in the court case are set to begin in a couple of weeks, Jeremy Govero told the council.

Govero complained not only that neighbors had been maintaining the 10-foot-wide strip of property for years but also that University Subaru tore the fence down with no notice.

“They came out with chainsaws and cut down the fence that had been there for 20, 30 years that encapsulates the whole neighborhood,” Govero said.

Govero also worried that the dealership would cut down trees and other vegetation.

London Drive resident James O’Neal also testified at the hearing, saying home owners on the street had no indication that the property belonged to the dealership. Both Govero and O’Neal, however, told Mayor Brian Treece that they had not had their properties surveyed before they bought them.

The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on the matter at its Dec. 6, 2018 meeting and voted 6-1 to recommend the council reject University Subaru’s proposal.

Community Developer Director Tim Teddy told the council that the land is part of the dealership’s property, according to the public record.

“When meeting with staff and going through the proper channels in order to build a fence, we found out — my client found out — that it belongs on the property line,” Hollis said of the fence. “And that’s what the ordinance states.”

Hollis also said D&D Investments of Columbia, which owns the dealership property, would try to save as many trees as possible when building the new fence.

In other action, the council also approved spending $1.3 million to erect power lines connecting the Rebel Hills electric substation to the 94-acre Truman solar farm that will be built along I-70 Drive Southeast. The council last year approved a contract to buy solar power from Truman that will constitute 1.5 percent of the city’s total energy portfolio.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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