Saturday, April 30, 2016

The former site of the Foster Mansion on St. Joseph Manor is shown in this June 26, 2014, photograph. (J. Tyler Klassen / The Elkhart Truth)
Controversial fence not violating city code, Elkhart official says

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 3:42 p.m.

A 6-foot chain link construction fence that’s stood at the former Foster Mansion site for more than a decade complies with city code, according to an Elkhart city official.

Neighbors, already unhappy with the 2002 demolition of the historic structure and owners Rex and Alice Martin’s decision not to rebuild on the site at 9 St. Joseph Manor, have long called the fence an eyesore. The Elkhart Truth featured the case in a June 27 Ask The Truth article, in which readers wanted to know why the mansion was torn down and why nothing was ever built in its place.

City officials declined a request for an interview for that article, instead requiring The Elkhart Truth to file a public records request inquiring about the fence’s legality. In response to a July 8 request, the city this week provided a one-page “Zoning Clearance” dated June 25, 2003.

The document’s “comments” section reads, “Fence must be installed w/ 50’ front yard setback, as per attached drawing.”

City Zoning Administrator Sue Reynolds said the fence material and height initially violated city code because it was deemed to be in the site’s front yard. But the Martins subsequently, at some point in 2003, moved the fence back so that it was at least 50 feet from the street, the average setback of fences on neighboring properties.

The Martins and their attorney have declined to comment.