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Nottingham fence saga nears an end after past controversy

Nottingham fence saga nears an end after past controversy

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The installation of what ranks as one of the area's most controversial and expensive fences has begun at the Miller Mansion at 175 Nottingham Terrace.

It is being installed first along Lincoln Parkway, years after the neighborhood protested the project and then reached a compromise.

"This is one of the most complicated fence projects probably ever," said Rafael Gomez, a lawyer for Donna Haid, the property's owner.

Four and a half years ago, controversy erupted over the custom-made ornamental wrought-iron fence. The Gothic-style barrier was fabricated for the English manor to be 8 feet tall. Two eye-catching gates, one 17 feet tall and the other 12 feet tall, had already been erected.

Some considered the fence too garish and large for the neighborhood, while others approved of it. Few people seemed to be on the fence over the issue.

Installation was halted in 2015 after 150 neighbors signed petitions. Neighbors enlisted attorney Terrence M. Connors to make their case for why the Buffalo Zoning Board should reconsider granting the variance for an 8-foot-high fence.

They succeeded in getting the Buffalo Zoning Board to withdraw its prior approval. The board asked the two sides to reach a resolution rather than fight in court, and the two sides negotiated an agreement. The board in 2017 approved their fence agreement.

The agreement allows the fence to be installed in a swale, with the idea that the shallow, dry moat would make the fence look 6 feet high, in accordance with the City Code. A smaller pedestrian gate was also agreed to.

The design of the elegant fence "was something a little different that just turned into this saga," Gomez said.

"It started off as an extremely adversarial situation, but ultimately the neighbors came together and I think cooler heads prevailed," Gomez said.

"We have turned that corner and I am hoping that, soon enough, we will see it standing," Gomez said. "As soon as Mother Nature cooperates they should be able to finish the installation."

The cost of the fence was reportedly over $500,000 in 2016, before legal costs and additional changes were added. Gomez said the family preferred not to comment on the cost.

The property near Delaware Park was built in 1933, and it has served as a home, convent and private school over the decades. Donna and Albert Haid bought the mansion for $1.7 million in 2010.

The yearslong delay in putting up the fence was the result of "a myriad of issues," Gomez said.

How to deal with drainage with the swale now running along the property was one of them, he said.

Gomez said the fence maker spent considerable time studying local architecture to ensure the fence would be consistent with the property it will be adorning. Installation of the fence this spring was also put on hold when Albert Haid died.

Restoration on tap at the family residence includes replacing copper eaves stolen years ago and repairing stonework.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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