Man wins fight with city over fence around RV
AUSTIN, Texas - An Austin man is celebrating his win over the city after being taken to court over an alleged code violation involving the fence surrounding his RV.
Matthew Palmer says the battle started in 2013 after he was notified a complaint was made. Palmer knew he needed to build a fence and says he reached out to the city's code department.
"Nothing has changed since the day the case was closed and I haven't changed the fence," said Palmer. After a lot of back and forth Palmer built a fence and even made changes based on what information he says he was given. "One of them tells you to do it one way and another a different way and there's no process to get satisfaction. There's nothing you can do. You give in and hope they go away or you go to court," explained Palmer.
Palmer thought that everything was over until another complaint was made in 2014 sending code inspectors back out to his property in North Austin.
All the battle he says is over a two foot gap from the grass to where the fence starts.
"It ended up in court with a jury trial," said Palmer. On February 10th Palmer and his attorneys spent the day in court. At the end of the day a jury ruled in his favor finding him not guilty of violating city code.
"I'm very proud of Mr. Palmer for standing up to the bullying of Austin city bureaucrats. We're still investigating what can be done to stop this kind of abuse. He's not alone with his experience," said Councilmember Don Zimmerman who is paying close attention to Palmer's case. He says he's very concerned about micromanagement.
"At issue is he did make an effort to comply and he spent money and put a fence around his RV and he even got a letter say yes he's in compliance so he thought he was done," said Zimmerman.
"There was some miscommunication between the inspector and supervisor without it being screened to code," said Paul Tomasovic who is the acting director for Austin Code Compliance. The initial letter to Palmer informing him his case was closed should never have been sent and was sent in error.
Tomasovic says the code requires a solid fence and it's the department's job to enforce what city leaders pass. "Although we respect the outcome of the jury's ruling the RV is still not properly screened according to code," he said.
"I'm happy that I was found not guilty but I'm out all that money so it doesn't really feel like a win," said Palmer. He owes at least $2,000 in attorney fees and is awaiting his final bill.
The fight may not be over. "Right now we're meeting with the city law department to discuss what further actions to take at this point," said Tomasovic.
Councilmember Zimmerman says the whole thing is a waste of taxpayer dollars and he'd like to see Palmer get his legal fees back but he's not sure how that would happen.