Fence Down?

WSVN — When a thief stole the Josephs' air conditioner, they knew they had to make it tougher for crooks to get in their yard.

Roselaine Joseph: "And me and my husband said, 'Honey, it's better to put the fence.'"

Before they put up this fence, they went and got permission from North Miami Beach.

Fito Joseph: "I follow law to make sure I don't got problem."

Roselaine and Fito got two permits, the first saying this fence could be 4 feet high. They then went back to the City and got this permit that changed it and allowed this fence to be 5 feet. With that approval they then spent $8,000 to put up the fence.

Fito Joseph: "Of course I'm happy, because my job look good. Nice, I'm happy."

But today, Roselaine's fence has her fuming.

Roselaine Joseph: "The City told me I have to cut south side."

The Josephs were told, according to the City code, the 5-foot fence in front of their house had to be lowered to 4 feet to meet the City requirements.

Roselaine Joseph: "For me, I don't think this is fair. I do everything the right way. We followed the permit."

To lower the fence will cost another $3,600. Roselaine says they are being punished, even though they got a permit and did what they were told they could do.

Roselaine Joseph: "I got the proof. It's right here. See the sign for October for a 5-foot fence there?"

Roselaine rode around the city and found other fences in front yards just like hers, and says if the City wants them to lower it. They should pay for it.

Roselaine Joseph: "Oh, City doesn't have money. How about me? I try to survive."

Well, Howard, they got this permit that seems to say they can put a 5-foot fence right here. After it was installed, the City says that was a mistake. So do the Josephs legally have to take it down?

Howard Finkelstein: "This surprised me, because in most cases, if someone gives you permission to do something and you do, if they are wrong they have to pay to correct it. But in when it comes to cities and fences, if they make a mistake, they can force you to fix it and you have to pay for it. However, they do have the legal right to give you a break, in other words, a variance."

Good news from North Miami Beach for the Josephs and many other residents. We first spoke to the assistant city manager. Mark Perkins told us they were trying to work with the Josephs, that the permits said two different things: The first was that this fence could be 4 feet, the second one said it could be 5 feet. He then added, "We have to help them out."

Howard Finkelstein: "And one of our suggestions was to create an administrative variance for it, and allow the City to address this on a case-by-case basis."

City officials met to discuss a variance that would give the City the power to allow people like the Josephs to keep their fence. Perkins told Roselaine that it may take them a month or two, but in the meantime nobody from the City is going to bother her about the fence. You don't have to be a psychic to guess how that makes Roselaine feel.

Roselaine Joseph: "Oh yes, I am really happy. You guys help people, and I am still waiting for the City."

It's not a done deal yet, but hopefully the City will finalize it and let the Josephs keep the fence the way their permit allowed. And Howard and I talk about this a lot, something may be legal, but it's not right. In this case, legally North Miami Beach could say, 'Tough luck, take the fence down,' but they told the Josephs they could put it up, and the right thing to do is let them keep the fence. Give North Miami Beach credit for trying to do that.

Fenced in and need a way out? Permit us to help. Contact us. To heck with height. We'll climb over and try to bring in a solution.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Contact Help Me Howard:

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVNBroward: 954-761-WSVN