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Fenner board resolves Christenson building issue, completes zoning code review request

— The Christenson building at the corner of Nelson and Peterboro roads in Fenner will not be torn down, and the town will receive reimbursement for legal costs for the four-month process it has taken to reach the resolution with the building owner. The deal between the Fenner Town Board and town resident Jim Christenson was reached at the board’s Sept. 11 regular monthly meeting.

An addition to the building was constructed without a permit more than a decade ago, and this past May Christenson applied for a variance. Since then, the town board has been working with Christenson to resolve the situation, whether by forcibly removing the building or adding stipulations about the future use of the building.

The town has been considering razing the building addition due to concerns that it impedes visibility on such a highly traveled intersection. The Madison County Highway department, which got involved in the issue in July, also said the building’s roof drains empty into the county highway and in winter causes dangerous ice buildup.

Christenson, who was present at the board’s Sept. 11 meeting, gave a brief history of the building and his ownership of it. He disputed the statements that it obstructs traffic visibility or drains water into the highway, but admitted he built the addition illegally.

Town Attorney Jim Stokes said the building addition was clearly illegal, according to the records of the case, and although the town has the right to forcibly tear the addition down it is not obligated to do so. “The question is: Is there a public interest in removing this building?” Stokes said. He suggested that the $2,100 of Christenson’s money, currently in an escrow account owned by the town as part of a previous agreement with Christenson, could be forfeit as a civil penalty to the town rather than used to pay the cost of demolition.

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