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Fairness In Question Surrounding Fiocchi Fence Dispute

The Fiocchi Family's fence is 24 feet longer than permitted by the City of Havre de Grace.

Joe Fiocchi wants to create a t-shirt.

On the front, it would say “Public Enemy No. 1.”

On the back, he said: “Citizen of the Year.”

The impetus for the shirt: a fence, a lot of questions and a 2-2 vote at last month.

Fiocchi, 73, erected 24 extra feet of fence than he was permitted at his home at 469 Commerce Street in Havre de Grace. He then requested the city to allow the extra 24 feet, which juts onto city right-of-way along Union Avenue.

See photos of the fence included in the slideshow with this post.
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But at the , with the mayor not in attendance and two council members removed from voting, a split decision among the other four elected officials meant Fiocchi would have to tear down the fence.

The fence he built by hand.

The fence that has drawn praise from out-of-state visitors.

The fence that rings the immaculate waterview home that was .

The fence that keeps his home secure during busy city events—like the .

The fence that keeps Sylvester, Joe and Elaine Fiocchi’s 14-year-old yellow laborador, from wandering two of the city’s busier streets.

In a recent interview with on the decades-old path inside the fence, Fiocchi said he’ll abide by the ruling—but not without fighting for fairness.

“If they want me to take the fence down, naturally I have to take the fence down,” Joe Fiocchi said. “If that is the law, I have to abide by the law. The outcome I’d like to see is that everybody is treated fairly and the same. That’s all. I don’t like the favoritism. It’s not what people want or need, and it’s basically wrong.”

Fiocchi feels that because he questioned the city’s revitilization and development (RAD) revolving loan process —Mary Martin, the previous owner of the Fiocchi's home and the sister of then-City Council President —that he has become “Public Enemy No. 1” to many elected officials and city staff.

In a vote on June 18, the after-the-fact amendment to Fiocchi’s fence permit was denied by a 2-2 vote. Martin recused himself, citing a pending legal matter involving the Fiocchis and his sister.

and voted to allow the fence to stand. voted against, citing the potential of setting a precedent for other residents to ask for forgiveness, rather than permission. voted against, saying he would have supported the issue if the fence was two feet beyond what was permitted, but that 24 feet was too much for his liking.

, filling in for absent , did not render a vote as the acting mayor.

Fiocchi contested Martin’s statements that he and Martin’s sister are involved a legal matter, demanding a re-vote.

"You can’t get by with a lie," Fiocchi said at the meeting. "Show me where the lawsuit is."

Former Councilman also spoke against the City Council’s actions, noting that the fence—initially recommende for approval by the planning committee in April—was repeatedly dropped from the agenda.

“I want to congratulate the council tonight. That was very well played the way you did that to kill that vote,” Miller said. “Five meetings ago, the fence was supposed to come up. Five meetings ago, the council was made up of a completely different group.”

Fiocchi said he’s maintained approximately one-third of an acre of the city right-of-way, which is more than 100 feet along most of Union Avenue—a state road.

The Fiocchi’s garden is on the city right of way. At the corner of the property, a grove of trees at Union Avenue and Giles Street serves as a small respite from the city lawn that Fiocchi mows and maintains.

“I thought, this path has been here for 65 years. These trees have been here for 65 years. So I put in this 24 feet. Incidentally, from that post to that street, I maintain this,” Fiocchi said.

Now, the fence bears a sarcastic sign reading “24 feet." Outside the hedge, a copy of the letter sent from the city’s planning department to Fiocchi is displayed.

In the past, the city has often permitted fences to remain on city right-of-way after they are constructed.

One city source said such instances are common. Among noteworthy property improvements in the last decade where permits weren't adhered to:

  • A fence along Congress Avenue was built before permit was issued.
  • A permit was never required for a fence along Bourbon Street.
  • A Market Street fence was permitted, but an addition to a building was constructed, instead.

Understanding he had wronged, Fiocchi had a letter of petition presented to neighbors. Some 140 signed it, saying they were in favor of keeping the fence in place.

Fiocchi stopped circulating the petition after reading , then-council president and running for re-election, said: “I will always vote the most liberal approach to zoning. What I mean by that is, there’s never been a fence I haven’t voted for or a driveway I haven’t approved, because my theory has always been, if we make you shovel it and make you cut it, you may put a fence there with the proper license agreement."

Fiocchi’s permit allowed for the fence that was built—save for the 24-foot stretch that runs from an area near Sylvester’s posh doghouse toward the tree-lined Union Avenue.

That section would be the portion removed if the city and Fiocchi can’t come to a compromise in the meantime.

As of this week, the city had not made an attempt to compromise, Fiocchi said. In an email Friday to , the city’s planning department confirmed the fence would have to come down as of July 21.

Other residents of the Commerce Street area of town think the Fiocchis have done a fine job of improving one of the more visible corners in the city.

Neighbor John Vanderhoff said: “They've taken this place, and returned it to some grandeur. If you go by the place, it's outstanding. I think Havre de Grace should be proud to have people that make that property look like that, and not stand in the way of something, which is, I think, so insignificant.”

Joe Fiocchi wants the fairness to match the potential he sees in his city

“We could have a world class city. We’ve got more than St. Michael’s, MD right here. Look at it,” he said, pointing to the view beyond Tydings Park. “But as long as the thinking is: take care of our friends, and we’ll screw our enemies, this is what we’ll have. We’ll have stuff like this. I don’t think its right and I cannot back off. Where do I take it from there?”

TELL US: Do you think the Fiocchis’ fence should stay or be torn down? Leave a comment.

RGINS July 02, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Lets recoop the money that was "given" or should I say "not charged" to a certain local builder in free water and sewer hook ups in the area between Wilson Street and Bloomsbury. That will surley help pay for an extra inspector, or maybe use it as an incentive to get the ones they have to do their jobs. Perhaps the part time help at the yacht basin can help inspect since they dont take care of the piers. And by the way the corner of Union and Commerce looks alot better then the corner of Wilson and Seneca or Seneca and Bloomsbury. SAVE THE FENCE
Terry E July 02, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Downtown Hdg needs all of the help it can get to look better. I do believe he should have gotten a permit with a waiver. But for heavens sake let this guy keep his fence. This smells of backroom politics which does not benefit the city or its citizens.
tina July 02, 2012 at 03:43 PM
let the fence stay
Beth July 02, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I thought the fence added to the beautiful property that I see the owners daily maintain. So sorry that the city is relaxed on some issues and overly strict on others, not much of a balance. Over 10 years ago I wanted to put a fence up to keep trespassers out and to add to the charm of the property, and I wasn't allowed to. Can we please focus on the crime and drug issues in the city, then maybe no one will request fencing in this town.
Don Forsythe July 02, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Well seeing what this man has done for his property and what a wonderful looking fence he has put up, I just wish the City would do more about other properties which are not in as good of shape as his fence. If that fence was disturbing a real right way and causing a problem for the public to get around and the City was going to do the cutting and trimming of the grass, hedge, and trees this may be a real problem. And the problem would be that corner wouldn’t look as good as it does now, because you would hear that the City doesn’t have the money or the time to take care of it. While I am voicing my thoughts, it sure is funny that the city curbs seem to get painted on the parade route and the rest just don’t get done. They look very nice and so should the rest of the city. . If the council would take time say helping do painting and not worrying about a fence which hasn’t done anything to harm the public except to have a to lesson about some crap being stirred up and give something for the papers to right about. Well then take down the fence and let the City do the work in taking care of all of their right ways in the city, we know that will never happen.
Ronnie Bass July 02, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Talk about political posturing. A story or thread about the Mayor or current council just wouldn't be the same without the cry baby losers Cullum, Duncan and Miller. Haven't you 3 seen what this will get you in the long run. Thats right, voted out or not in. People get sick an tired of you three stirring it up all the time. Fortunately (as the past 2 elections have shown), the only people who care to fall for your antics are your cronnies. The good Havre de Gracian wants to do whats right and thats to abide by the law, take the fence down and move onto more important things.
b daniels July 02, 2012 at 05:41 PM
SAVE THE FENCE The fence is a work of art, for gosh sakes. I see what’s going on here. Good ‘ol boy, local politics. You have to be bought and paid for to want to tear it down. David Glenn and John Correri should be ashamed of themselves. How much is the political machine paying you for your re-election bids… not enough. “Save the City”, from idiots like you. You morons! You don’t appreciate good citizens. Continue down this path, and Havre de Grace will be inhabited by lower income families that will add nothing to your fine, but dieing city. Sincerely, A tourist, for now
James P. Miller July 02, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Ronnie you must be one of the people that benefit from the favoritism. I couldn’t agree with you more. If the current administration would be fair and equitable in the treatment of the citizens I wouldn’t have to post comments of Patch and speak my mind at the council meetings. If you would just take off the rose colored glasses and take a look around the city and stop name calling you would see what others are complaining about.
John Vanderhoff July 02, 2012 at 06:00 PM
After attending the council meeting of 18 June and hearing the tie vote and subsequent denying of the Fiocchi Family fence, I decided to express my feelings when provided the opportunity to talk during “citizens comments”. My response herein is driven from additional information available through other citizen comments and this article by Sean Walsh. Here are the conclusions reached: A. If the fence license had come up for vote during the normal time frame, it would have passed with Fred Cullum, Barbara Wagner, and Jim Miller voting “yes.” B. The fence item to be included on the council agenda did not come up until after the election at which time Fred Cullum and Jim Miller were replaced by Joseph Smith and Dave Glen. Here one yes vote is lost allowing a tie and thus fence denial. C. Why is this happening? It appears there is some underlying orchestration. I think former councilman Jim Miller described it well when he wrote “V for VENDETTA”. The city council should reassess the situation that includes both the recommendations of the planning committee and positive support of the citizens of Havre de Grace. If city council desires to represent its citizens then a revote and approval of this fence should be forthcoming. John Vanderhoff
Fred Cullum July 02, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I believe Mr. Vanderhoff, has hit the nail squarely on the head.
Fred Cullum July 02, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Sir, That is the law. If you in someway use, put a fence on, or erect a structure on City right of way, you either have to have a lease or a license agreement approved by the legislative body of the city. Over the years there have been many license agreements approved for use of right of way after the fact and for things that were not previously approved or permitted. There have been very few denied and when they were, it was for specific reasons such as: the subject matter caused a potential traffic hazard, a pedestrian hazard, was a will full violation of restrictions of a issued permit or interfered with the general well being of the city. So it seems to me that I am advocating just that, abiding by the law. If advocating fair and equal treatment to all makes me a "cry baby" then I am very proud to be one.
Joe Fiocchi July 02, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Thank you to eveyone who posted a comment either pro or con. This could be the first step to stop favoritism in Havre de Grace. The fence is only 24' of wood,what is at stake is our right to be treated on an equal basis. With ALL citizens being treated without malice, even if they ask questions that offend our city fathers. Joe Fiocchi
MDBronco July 02, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Leave the Fence and Fix my Curb, please
FASHIONRB July 02, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Lord, I know HDG city workers have something else to do leave the fence and leave the man alone, you act like he was committing a crime!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Trim some od these trees back from the wires.
Montgomery E. Loane July 02, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Leave the fence alone. What the City of Havre de Grace needs to start doing, hiring crews to go out and cut-plow-clean up all of those right of ways they claim to be protecting. Since the care of these areas are done 99% by the homeowners whose property it borders, consideration should be given. And since the council believes this section of fence should come down, first compensate EVERY homeowner in town the sum of $1,000 per year for the care of CITY RIGHT OF WAY. Second, and better yet, let's get a council in there who aren't a bunch of third graders.
Gracie K July 02, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Sounds like the precedent is that fences and other things have been constructed and HdG didn't do anything. So let the nice fence stand. What City Council needs to do for the betterment and safety of its citizens is put up a STOP sign at the intersection (Union & Commerce). It's CRAZY that there is no stop sign with the park and kids and pedestrians. Let go of the fence and get going with the STOP sign. Plus, when you stop, it will give you a chance to look at and appreciate the nice fence! :)
Cheryl Clelland July 03, 2012 at 03:54 AM
City Council should thank Mr. Fiocchi for such a classy looking fence and for the improvements to his property. Mr. Tarbert hit the nail on the head.......I've tried to get zoning to come on down the same street (as Mr. Fiocchi's residence) to look at a mess in a driveway and back yard. Clearly they don't look, close their eyes or are doing someone else a favor. The city needs to focus on PROBLEM AREAS not the problem solvers.
Pete Wilson July 03, 2012 at 10:00 AM
The city employees only do what they are told to do by their "Bosses". The enforcement is done on a selective basis because some council member has a pet peeve or grudge.
Reality Check July 03, 2012 at 11:23 AM
John Vanderhoff states "If the fence license had come up for vote during the normal time frame, it would have passed with Fred Cullum, Barbara Wagner, and Jim Miller voting “yes.”" So let me understand, The two Councilmen that the Citizens of Havre de Grace voted out of office would have voted to ignore the law. Seems like the Citizens made the correct choice in May. Sure hope they do the same next May and get rid of the third. By the way, does anyone know why Barbara Wagner left City Hall before completing her sworn duties last night. Why did she not participate in the closed session? Why did she choose not to do her job? Perhaps she had her feelings hurt when her close personal friend and business associate, Mr. Fiocchi had to stand up and publicly appoligize for not telling the truth. Her relationship with Mr. Fiocchi was displayed in the parade when her business and Mr. Fiocchi were combined on a float. Is it honest for a Councilwoman to vote on a matter involving a person whom she has a business relationship with??
Joe Fiocchi July 03, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Hi Mike, Nice try but no cigar, Yes I do know Mrs Wagner, and I feel that she is fair minded and a great person to have on city council. Sorry to tell you that I sold my business about 15 years ago. Now it is time to have some fun in my golden years. The car on the float is a very rare automobile, one of the few that remain,. It is a 1938 Fiat rhd (right hand drive) soft top, please Mike search the world and see if you can find another. Since I am not in business, and the car turns heads whenever it appers in public, I thought that it woud be FUN to put it in the parade. Note the sponsers,. A great Italian Restaurant and a fantastic Antique Store, a perfect fit for the car on display, neither paid a cent for having their banner displayed. Have a great day,Mike by the way check Jay Lenos garage he has a 1937 lhd(left hand drive )hard top. Feel free to stop by and I will be glad to tell you why the car is called "the Amazing Mick"
James P. Miller July 03, 2012 at 12:50 PM
It doesn’t take a Philadelphia lawyer to see through your post or does it?
Fred Cullum July 03, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Well lets see, since the current law in the city says that you can be granted a license agreement to put a fence on city property ( right of way) meeting certain conditions of course, it would seem to me that we would have been upholding the law. If not then obviously the city council members failed to uphold the law last night. The two license agreement requests were for the exact same thing, a fence erected on city right of way (without prior approval) only difference the one denied was made of wood the other is made of bricks. Well yes, there is another difference the brick one is built right at the city sidewalk and the wooden one is not. The problem here is the confusion of zoning code violation and license agreement one has nothing to do with the other. Council has no authority to either enforce or override zoning requirements under article 66 B of Maryland law. If either of these have permit or zoning violations then that is up to the administration of the city to deal with not the legislative body. As far as a council person not attending the closed session, why don't you simply contact that person and not post remarks on here to try and make some one look bad. This certainly is not the first time one or more council members have not attended a closed session. I'm tired of beating this horse to death, it's really putting of some foul odors. It's time to move on and do the right thing and treat everyone fairly. That's all I ask!!
Reality Check July 03, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Mr. Fiocchi, Your car is indeed a classic and added a great deal to the parade. You state above the Councilwoman Wagner's business sponsored the car in the parade. And that she did not pay a cent for the advertisement that you provided. There is very little advertisement offered that is not paid for in some manner. Indeed that is my point. Perhaps she paid with the speech she gave at Council and with the vote she made. Perhaps she did not. I believe Councilwoman Wagner to be an honest person. However, when on Council it is best to avoid any possible question of impropriety.
James P. Miller July 03, 2012 at 02:26 PM
You Mike Gentry a.k.a ________ of all people should know this. "I believe Councilwoman Wagner to be an honest person. However, when on Council it is best to avoid any possible question of impropriety." You continue to hide behind a Pseudonym, but people figured out who you really are.
Karen green July 03, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I am commenting, not on the fence but on Jim Miller's comment concerning other groups not using the Old opera House. I am not an elected official. I do advise Parks and Recreation programs as to various considerations when holding public programs. The local Recreation Committee practices "inclusion" and as such adhrese to ADA regulations which means that programs must be conducted in "accessible facilities". The Opera House is not and therefore rec programs and activities are not held there. No conspiracy is involved, just a philosophy of service to as many people as possible with consideration of those with disabilities.
W H W July 03, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I know this wont get posted because its against your cronies Sean, awhile back i posted a reply about your "friend" who at that time was on the council it was not allowed, last week i posted just a comment about you bringing up a " lifestyle " which again wan't posted, but when your friends slam the Mayor, whom i've never met, LET It RIDE this is why this country doesnt believe in newspapers no more PREJUDICE!!
Sean Welsh July 03, 2012 at 06:13 PM
A comment from Hans-Adam III, Prince of Liechtenstein has been deleted for violation of Patch's terms of use. Sean
Sean Welsh July 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM
W H W — I'm not sure which "friends" or comments you're referring to, or two which articles they pertain, but you can email me at sean.welsh@patch.com or call me at 443-299-7702 and I'll be happy to look into whatever issues are at play. Thanks, Sean
Sean Welsh July 03, 2012 at 06:26 PM
For those of you who haven't seen it yet, here's the recap from last night's meeting which was posted this morning, including some updates to the story above: http://havredegrace.patch.com/articles/city-council-wall-stands-fence-comes-down Sean
Sean Welsh July 03, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Comments on this article have been closed. Please see the updated story here: http://havredegrace.patch.com/articles/city-council-wall-stands-fence-comes-down Thanks, Sean

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