SOLON — If a stone wall were another nine feet from the center line of Brighton Road, there wouldn’t be a problem.

But selectmen say the wall is too close to the road and is in the town’s right of way, making the town liable if a vehicle crashes into it and someone is injured.

Town officials want the owner, Kirt Olson, who built the wall last year, to move it, but he has declined. He argues there has been a barbed wire fence in the same spot for more than 40 years, so his fence is grandfathered and should stay.

The issue will come before residents at a special town meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, at Solon Elementary School.

Residents may vote whether to approve money for a lawyer to decide whether to bring the matter to court, First Selectman Elaine Aloes said. The town would need between $5,000 and $10,000.

The town has offered its equipment to help Olson move back the wall, but he declined the offer, Aloes said.

Olson denied being offered help. “That never, ever was discussed with us,” he said.

Aloes replied that Olson met with selectmen at the town office July 20, and they offered to help him move the wall.

Olson is relying on a law that states a fence becomes the new right of way if it’s been in place for 40 years. The prior fence was there more than 40 years, Aloes said, but it was made of barbed wire — not stone — and was used to hold back cattle. There haven’t been cattle there for many years.

“That’s his legal stance that because there was something pre-existing there he could build what he wanted there,” Aloes said. “Our stance is, no, it’s not grandfathered because there was never an existing stone wall.”

A manmade structure must be 33 feet from the center line of thatr road, and the wall is 24 feet away, she said. With it too close, “It would present a danger if someone went off the road and hit it, and there could be a resulting lawsuit,” she said.

Olson argues that by building the stone wall he is maintaining the barbed wire fence, which is allowed to be there. “All that we’re doing is maintenance to our fences,” he said. “We obviously had worked on them for a very long time, and no one said anything to us.”

Money is not the issue, he said, as he did most of the construction himself.

“There is a principle involved,” he said. “Fighting city hall is never a good thing, but sometimes you do have to stand up for yourself.”

Olson owns about 475 acres in Solon and uses his farm, Brookvale Farm, to grow alfalfa and hay, which he sells as feed for dairy cattle.

At the special meeting residents will also decide whether to replace a town grader.

The transmission broke on the town’s 1983 Champion grader, and the company is no longer in business, so the part can’t be replaced, Aloes said.

The town could purchase a new grader for a maximum of $100,000, or it could hire someone to grade the roads each year. But with grading happening about four times a year, at $3,000 every time, selectmen are recommending a new purchase, Aloes said.

The town has about $33,000 in its equipment reserve account, which it can use to pay for the grader. If the town votes to make a new purchase it would use the $13,000 normally put aside for that account each year to pay for the grader.

Residents will also vote whether to allow a resident to keep his property. The town foreclosed on it because the owner, who was out of the country, didn’t pay his taxes. The owner has since paid his taxes and would like to keep his property, Aloes said.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]


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