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A drastic deed staved off in flap about fence

A substantial portion of a privacy fence that sparked years of contentious debate came down quietly last weekend _ just days before the Community Development District was scheduled to take down large chunks of it.

The removal resolves the controversy for Community Development District supervisors who hired a surveyor and determined last month that more than 2,000 square feet of Joseph and Lucy Patsko's 6-foot tall wood fence encroached on CDD, or taxing district, conservation land.

But the issue is far from over for the Tampa Palms Owners Association. That organization has repeatedly cited and fined the couple for violating deed restrictions when they installed the fence a year ago. An August 1998 ruling barred wood fences because they deteriorate.

"As a supervisor on the CDD I am pleased to see that they chose to move their fence off our land," said board president Mark Fitzpatrick, who voted two weeks ago to authorize taxing district staff to remove the offending portions on March 19 if the Patskos failed to do so.

However, "as a resident, as a homeowner whose own wife has requested many a time that we get a fence for our back yard _ we too are on a corner lot on a busy street as are the Patskos _ I am completely offended by this total lack of respect for the deed restrictions which have provided them so much benefit," Fitzpatrick said.

The Patskos, whose Cambridge III home backs up to the homeowner association office, said they erected the wood fence to keep people from cutting through their yard and to protect their son from going near the street.

They reasoned a wooden one would be fine because some of their neighbors had them. When they were informed otherwise last April, Joseph Patsko said he had no intention of taking down the $5,000 fence.

Neither the Patskos nor their attorney returned phone calls for this article.

Maura Lear, manager of the homeowners association, said the association had initially approved the couple's request for a fence in September 1998, but specified it must be wrought-iron or plastic. In March 2001 the Patskos put up their wood fence instead.

"From the beginning our mantra has been we're not against a fence, we just don't want a wooden fence," said Lear.

The association issued citations in the year that followed. "Fines have been imposed, but we haven't sued for damages through the courts as of yet; although that has been approved by the board," Lear said.

And while the couple complied with taxing district requirements this month, "every shred of that fence has to go down to eliminate the (TPOA) violation," Lear added.

Now, speaking through their lawyers, both the Patskos and the homeowner association have discussed compromises such as dense shrubbery, to protect the Condover Court home, or an aluminum, wrought-iron or PVC fence.

On Feb. 22, the homeowner association asked the Patskos to have a new fence installed within 90 days. A key stipulation instructed them also to present a copy of the contract showing they had ordered a new fence, and proof of their deposit on it within 15 days.

The association did not receive the paperwork, Lear said.

Now the Residential Modifications Committee, the association's attorney and its board members will meet sometime next week to determine where to go from here.

With the taxing district dilemma resolved, Fitzpatrick said he will wait and see what happens next.

"I truly feel for the TPOA," he said. "As a resident I have to rely on the TPOA to enforce these deed restrictions and I believe they will."

_ Melia Bowie can be reached at 269-5312.

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