After nine months of discussion, St. Clair’s Planning and Zoning Board finally has a recommendation to make on a fence that has stirred some controversy in the city and between neighbors.

During its November meeting, the city’s planners unanimously decided to tell the board of aldermen that they think Tom Ritter’s fence that runs along an unused portion of Nashville Street can stay put, even though it’s built on the city’s right of way.

The planners started discussing the fence in March.

“Our feeling is that the fence be allowed to stand,” planning and zoning member Tim Hamilton said.

After tabling a recommendation in October, Hamilton, fellow board member John McGlenn and City Inspector Jeremy Crowe went to Ritter’s business, Tom’s Automotive Repair, and took a close look at the fence, property lines and the unused portion of Nashville Street that runs between the back of Ritter’s property and the vacant lot owned by Matt Perkins, who lives on nearby Maupin Street.

Perkins has complained to city officials about the fence being too close to or even on his property. He was opposed to the street vacation.

“I think it would be in the best interests of all to let the fence remain and leave it where it is,” McGlenn said.

The planners’ recommendation will come with a stipulation, however, that the fence can remain where it is as long as Ritter owns the property. Currently, the business at 170 Frisco St. and the surrounding lots are for sale.

The recommendation to the aldermen will request that a license be granted to Ritter that allows the fence to stay as long as he finishes repairs to it and he remains the owner of the property. If he sells the land or for any other reason no longer is the owner, the fence will have to be torn down, and if another one is built it will have to be constructed off the city’s Nashville Street right of way.

Ritter was in attendance during the planners’ meeting and said he understood.

“Once the property is no longer yours, it has to be torn down and put back up on the property line if it is rebuilt,” planning board Chairman Myrna Turner told Ritter. “We’re taking care of this for now for you.”

The recommendation still must be approved by the board of aldermen.

Fence Issue

The issue with the fence first surfaced in March when Ritter asked the city to vacate an unused portion of Nashville Street to the north of the intersection of Maupin Street. That unused portion runs to Mill Hill Road, and has not been identified as an actual street for at least 50 years.

Ameren Missouri and Marlen Gas have lines running along Nashville Street, and the city has sewer and water lines there as well as two manholes. The major concern of planning board members centered on the easement, which would be abandoned if the street was vacated.

In June, the decision was made not to vacate the street. At the time, Ward 2 Alderman and planning and zoning board member Travis Dierker said, “We’re not in the business of vacating streets. But I think we can work with Tom on this matter.”

Ritter had requested the vacation because he wanted to make repairs to the fence along the back of his property. At the time, he said there was too much brush and trees in the way. That since has been cleaned to allow Ritter access, which prompted Perkins to say it affected his property. He also said Ritter is not just fixing the fence, but adding to it.

“We can issue Mr. Ritter a license that could be recorded and stipulate upon the selling of that property, the license would be revoked,” Turner said in October before the issue was tabled to this month. “Then Mr. Ritter would have access to the fence and be able to repair it.”

The city previously had delayed any decision on the property after deciding to have it surveyed this summer.

The survey, completed by Wunderlich Surveying & Engineering Inc., shows the southeast corner of Ritter’s fence almost touching the northeastern point of the Nashville-Maupin intersection. The fence does not touch Perkins’ property, but it extends over Nashville Street and the city’s right of way.